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A Schreiner Chronology

This 'Chronology' contains brief information about key events and important changes in Olive Schreiner's life. It gives an overall sketch of where she was and some of the key things going on in her life at particular points in time. It is, however, not intended to be exhaustive, and so its contents should be used together with more detailed information derived from her letters themselves. Where dates and information here differ from what is in biographical accounts of Schreiner's life and times, it is helpful to keep in mind that these have not drawn on her full extant letters, which is what this Chronology rests on.



  • Leaving Britain late Nov 1837, Gottlob Schreiner and Rebecca Schreiner nee Lyndall arrive Cape Town, South Africa, with Gottlob a missionary for the London Missionary Society. Initially stationed Bethelsdorp and Philipton, Eastern Cape
  • 23 July: Catherine (Katie) Whitby Schreiner Schreiner born Philipton
  • End 1838, Schreiners move to Philippolis Mission Station, Free State



  • 7 November: Frederick (Fred) Samuel Schreiner born Philippolis



  • Schreiners leave Philippolis in July for farm Beersheba, Free State, where Rebecca Schreiner’s half-sister, Elizabeth Rolland nee Lyndall, husband Samuel and family (also missionaries) live. Gottlob Schreiner leaves to establish Basel Mission Station, Free State, near northern border of Basutoland (now Lesotho); the rest of the family stay at Beersheba, then join him at Basel
  • Issues regarding Gottlob Schreiner’s missionary activities at Philippolis investigated by the London Missionary Society
  • 16 November: Albert Gottlob Schreiner born Bethanie, Free State [Rebecca Schreiner became ill and the Schreiners attempted to go to Colesberg, Northern Cape, for medical assistance. When halting at Bethanie due to fighting in the area, Albert was born. The Schreiners continued to Colesberg, where Rebecca and children stayed while Gottlob returned to Basel.]


  • 20 March: Albert Schreiner dies Bethulie, Free State [Gottlob Schreiner returned to Colesberg to collect Rebecca and the children and return to Basel; en route, Albert Schreiner became ill and died.)


  • 21 April: Theophilus (Theo) Lyndall Schreiner born Colesberg


  • 28 December: Alice Elizabeth Schreiner born Basel Mission Station


  • London Missionary Society require Gottlob Schreiner to relocate to Grahamstown, Eastern Cape
  • Gottlob Schreiner resigns LMS August 1846 to join Wesleyan Missionary Society; stationed Umpukane (near Clocolan, Free State) in October 1846



  • ?2 June: Oliver Schreiner born Umpukane Mission Station



  • 7 August: Henrietta (Ettie, Het) Rebecca Schreiner born Umpukane Mission Station
  • Umpukane attacked in frontier fighting; Schreiners move to Lishuani Mission Station, Ficksburg, Free State



  • Schreiners evacuated from Lishuani to Winburg, Free State
  • Gottlob Schreiner stationed at Bloemfontein, Free State; Schreiners live Bloemfontein circa two years.
  • ?24 August: Emile Schreiner born Bloemfontein


  • Fred Schreiner leaves for school, Taunton College, then university, England


  • 9 March: Oliver Schreiner dies, Bloemfontein
  • Gottlob Schreiner transferred to Wittebergen Mission Station, Herschel, Eastern Cape (on border of Basutoland, now Lesotho)
  • 9 September: Emile Schreiner dies Wittebergen


  • 24 March: Olive Emily Albertina Schreiner (hereafter OS) born Wittebergen



  • 30 August: William (Will) Philip Schreiner born Wittebergen


  • Theo Schreiner leaves for school, Taunton College, England


  • Cameron Schreiner born Wittebergen


  • 1 August: Katie Schreiner marries John Findlay
  • December: Cameron Schreiner dies Wittebergen


  • Schreiners move to Healdtown, Eastern Cape, where Gottlob Schreiner runs the Wesleyan Missionary Training Institute


  • Alice Schreiner leaves for Fraserburg, Northern Cape
  • Katie Findlay, daughter of Kate and John Findlay, born


  • 10 March: Alice Schreiner marries Robert Hemming
  • Theo Schreiner returns from school in England


  • 22 March: Helen (Ellie) Schreiner born Healdtown


  • 6 August: Helen (Ellie) Schreiner dies Healdtown
  • November: Gottlob Schreiner dismissed from Wesleyan Missionary Society for infringing trading regulations; Schreiners move to Balfour, Eastern Cape; Gottlob works as trader and smouser


  • Theo Schreiner begins teaching Grahamstown, Eastern Cape


  • Theo Schreiner appointed School Principal in Cradock, Eastern Cape, joined by Ettie Schreiner and, later in 1867, OS and Will Schreiner
  • Hudson Findlay, son of Kate and John Findlay, born.




  • Theo Schreiner and Will Schreiner go to diamond fields at New Rush (later Kimberley), Northern Cape, with John Pursglove
  • OS visits the Hemmings in Burgersdorp, Eastern Cape, en route to planned visit with the Orpens on the farm Avoca, Barkly East, Eastern Cape


  • OS first extant letter; 11 April to Katie Findlay, from Kraaii River, Eastern Cape
  • Alice Findlay, daughter of Katie and John Findlay, born
  • OS stays at Hermon, Basutoland (now Lesotho), for some weeks, on the Rollands mission station
  • OS meets Willie Bertram at Hermon, who gives her Herbert Spencer’s First Principles
  • OS abandons visit to Opens and stays with her cousin Emmie Hope (nee Rolland) and husband Hamilton Hope in Burgersdorp near Aliwal North, Eastern Cape
  • OS moves to Dordrecht, Eastern Cape, as governess to the Robinsons; meets Julius Gau and his sister


  • OS leaves Dordrecht for her parents in Hertzog, Eastern Cape, accompanied by Julius Gau, writing to Katie Findlay about her engagement to Gau in August
  • OS’s engagement to Julius Gau broken
  • December, OS goes to New Rush (re-named Kimberley 1873), Northern Cape, where Ettie, Will and Theo Schreiner with John Pursglove have acquired a claim (at Du Toit’s Pan); UndineThe Story of An African Farm and From Man to Man all appear to have been started at this time and developed in later sojourns as a governess


  • November, OS leaves Kimberley for Fraserburg, Northern Cape, to visit her sister Alice Hemming
  • OS meets Dr John Brown and Mary Brown nee Solomon at Fraserburg


  • OS visits her parents in Hertzog in March-April
  • OS moves to Colesberg, Northern Cape, in May as governess to the Weakleys


  • OS moves to Ganna Hoek, Halesowen, Eastern Cape, as governess to the Fouchés, who own a neighbouring farm to the Cawoods
  • OS reads John Stuart Mill's Logic


  • In May, OS moves to Ratel Hoek, Halesowen, Eastern Cape, as governess to the Martins (Martyns, Maartains)
  • 26 August: Gottlob Schreiner dies Greykerk, just outside Balfour
  • Theo Schreiner and Ettie Schreiner organise the relocation of Rebecca Schreiner; she first stays with friends, then moves to Cathcart Vale, Seymour, Eastern Cape. Around this time, Rebecca converts to Catholicism


  • OS visits her mother at Seymour, returning to Ratel Hoek and the Martins
  • OS considers starting a school in Tarkastad, Eastern Cape
  • Travelling with the Martins, OS visits Katkop, Cradock, Eastern Cape, then returns to Ratel Hoek with them


  • OS visits her mother at Seymour, returning to Ratel Hoek and the Martins in March
  • Will Schreiner leaves for England for College and University
  • Travelling with the Martins, OS visits Katkop again, then returns to Ratel Hoek with them


  • Rebecca Schreiner stays with OS in Ratel Hoek early in the year
  • March, OS stays at Ganna Hoek wth the Cawoods
  • July, OS visits her mother in Seymour before moving to Lily Kloof, Halesowen, Eastern Cape, as governess to the Fouchés


  • OS visits her mother in Grahamstown and returns to Lily Kloof
  • July: death of OS’s loved nephew Leo Hemming, son of Alice and Robert Hemming
  • Basuto War; Hamilton Hope (husband of Emma Hope nee Rolland) killed in October
  • November: OS letter to sister Katie says she is leaving for England in February 1881; OS applies to train as a nurse at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary


  • OS leaves Lily Kloof, visits her mother in Grahamstown
  • 4 March: OS departs Cape Town for England
  • 30 March: Olive Schreiner arrives England, stays with brother Fred Schreiner and his wife Emma in Eastbourne, Sussex
  • April, OS visits the Browns Burnley, Lancashire; goes to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary but leaves after a few days and returns to Eastbourne due to health issues
  • October, OS goes to Endell Street Hospital in London to train as a midwife; becomes ill and spends winter in Ventnor, Isle of Wight. Meets Eleanor Marx, who becomes a close friend


  • OS living in London by March, visiting publishers with the manuscript of The Story of An African Farm
  • OS leaves London and moves to St Leonards, Sussex, in early October


  • OS returns to London mid May
  • The Story of an African Farm (London: Chapman & Hall) published
  • OS leaves London in August /September and lives in various parts of costal Sussex


  • Will Schreiner marries Francis Hester Reitz (Fan) early January
  • OS returns to London early May; late June moves to Bedfordshire; early July moves to Derbyshire and remains until late September; then moves to Sussex again
  • ?23 April: Alice Hemming dies; Ettie Schreiner brings up Alice and John Hemming’s surviving children (Effie, Guy, Wynnie, Elberty)
  • OS meets Havelock Ellis, who becomes a close friend; he gives her a copy of Edward Carpenter’s Towards Democracy Plans for Men and Women’s Club start to take place
  • A baby daughter of Will and Fan Schreiner is born and dies shortly after


  • 9 July OS attends first meeting of Men and Women’s Club
  • OS organises a petition in support of W.T. Stead as the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette
  • OS meets Edward Carpenter, who becomes a close friend, at Fellowship of the New Life


  • 19 April: William Francis (‘Bill’) Schreiner, son of Will and Fan Schreiner, born Cape Town
  • OS stops attending Men and Women’s Club meetings after November


  • OS lives in Montreux, Switzerland, from late December 1886 to mid March 1887
  • OS lives mostly in Alassio, Italy, until June, then returns to Britain until early/mid October, then returns to Italy
  • Frances Lyndall (‘Dot’) Schreiner, daughter of Will and Fan Schreiner, born between early 1887 and late 1889


  • OS remains in Alassio, Italy, until May, then lives in Kent, Hertfordshire, London (briefly) and Surrey before returning to Italy in October, then moves to Mentone, France, December


  • Schreiner stays in Mentone, France, until March/April 1889, visiting Paris on early April return to England; lives in London, Surrey and Sussex and again in London in June / July
  • 10 September: Amy Levy dies
  • 11 October: OS sails for South Africa


  • OS leaves Cape Town and moves to Matjesfontein, Western Cape, in late March, visiting Cape Town briefly in early December
  • OS meets Mary Sauer, who becomes a close friend
  • OS meets Cecil Rhodes
  • 29 December: Oliver Schreiner, son of Will and Fan Schreiner, born Cape Town


  • OS continues living Matjesfontein, staying in Cape Town between May and August and again briefly in late December
  • OS meets Betty Molteno and Alice Greene, who become close friends
  • Dreams (London: T. Fisher Unwin) is published


  • OS ‘turns back’ from Rhodes in Matjesfontein
  • OS ill with measles for the second time in June / July
  • OS continues to live in Matjesfontein, visiting Cape Town in August
  • In December, while visiting the Cawoods in Ganna Hoek, OS meets Samuel Cron Cronwright
  • Ursula Schreiner, daughter of Will and Fan Schreiner, born Cape Town


  • After visiting Grahamstown, Wittebergen and Middleburg, Eastern Cape, OS sails for England around 3 May and lives variously in Sussex and Yorkshire until returning to South Africa in October. She then lives in Middleburg, Eastern Cape
  • Ettie Schreiner marries John Stakesby Lewis
  • Dream Life and Real Life (London: T. Fisher Unwin) is published


  • 24 February: OS marries Samuel Cron Cronwright in Middelburg, Eastern Cape. He adopts her family name, becoming Cronwright-Schreiner (SCCS). They live on the ostrich farm he manages, Krantz Plaats
  • In August the Schreiners move to The Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape, living there until December 1898


  • 30 April-1 May: OS’s baby daughter born then dies shortly afterwards
  • OS’s ‘The Political Situation’ is read by SCCS in Kimberley Town Hall; OS meets and/or corresponds with Jan Smuts
  • December 1895-January 1896: Jameson Raid; Rhodes resigns as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony


  • OS and SCCS visit the Kowie (Port Alfred) and Middleburg, Eastern Cape, in January / February, then return Kimberley
  • OS’s The Political Situation (London: T. Fisher Unwin) published


  • January-21 August: OS and SCCS visit England and stay in London, travelling to Italy and France in particular between late February and May; OS becomes ill, they return via London and Sussex to South Africa, arriving Kimberley September
  • Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland (London: T. Fisher Unwin) published
  • November/December Cornwall libel case against Cronwright-Schreiner


  • 31 March: Eleanor Marx kills herself
  • October: Will Schreiner becomes Prime Minster of the Cape.
  • nd: Kate Findlay (OS’s sisters) dies while in the Natal Government Asylum, Pietermaritzburg, Natal
  • Schreiner 'tests' living in Johannesburg in October and November, then moves there in December 1898


  • 11 October: the South African War starts
  • OS lives in Johannesburg until August, moving to Karree Kloof, Kran Kuil, Northern Cape, and then Cape Town in October to stay with Will and Fan Schreiner
  • The South African Question (An English South African’s View of the Situation) (London: Hodder & Stroughton) published
  • At some point, OS’s Johannesburg house is bombed and looted by loyalists


  • January-July: SCCS anti-war speaking tour of England
  • 28 May: Free State annexed
  • 31 May: OS speaks at a Volkskongres at Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape
  • 9 July: OS speaks at a women’s protest meeting in Cape Town
  • OS lives in Wagenaars Kraal, Three Sisters, Northern Cape (February-June) and then Beaufort West, Western Cape (July-August)
  • OS moves to Hanover, Northern Cape, September 1900, living there until October 1907
  • 1 September: South African Republic (aka Transvaal) annexed
  • 12 October: OS sends letter to be read at a women’s protest meeting in Somerset East, Eastern Cape
  • 10 November: OS sends letter to be read at a women’s protest meeting in Paarl, Western Cape
  • 6 December: OS and SCCS attend the VolksKongres at Worcester, Western Cape
  • Martial Law proclaimed in and around Hanover in December; OS’s movements severely restricted


  • March: some Hanover men (Nienabers and Nieuwoudt) executed in De Aar, Northern Cape, following informant evidence
  • 7 May: Fred Schreiner dies in England
  • August: OS visits Rebecca Schreiner in Grahamstown (visits also made by Theo Schreiner, Katie Stuart, Ettie Stakesby Lewis and Will Schreiner). In September, Will Schreiner takes Rebecca Schreiner to Cape Town, where she lives with Ettie Stakesby Lewis. OS returns to Hanover
  • OS is seriously ill, probably involving the typhoid endemic in Hanover at this time


  • 26 March: Cecil Rhodes dies
  • 31 May: The South African War ends with signing the Treaty of Vereeniging
  • OS visits Johannesburg and rescues fragments from what remains of her house; most of her manuscripts have been destroyed


  • 5 September: Rebecca Schreiner dies Cape Town


  • OS again ill with possible typhoid in January
  • In August-September, OS and Ettie Stakesby-Lewis move Gottlob Schreiner’s remains from Balfour to be buried with Rebecca Schreiner in Maitland cemetery, Cape Town


  • Letter on Johannesburg Shop Assistants Union demonstration published
  • Letter on ‘The Taal’ published


  • A Letter on the Jew published


  • OS helps found Cape Women’s Enfranchisement League and become a Vice-President
  • OS moves to De Aar in November, living there until December 1913


  • OS stays Cape Town mid-June to mid-August
  • OS stays Matjesfontein late December 1908 to March 1909


  • Theo Schreiner ill with typhoid in February in Matjesfontein
  • OS leaves Matjesfontein late March, stays briefly Cape Town before returning to De Aar. Visits Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula in November
  • OS publicly shakes hands with Gandhi when he is about to depart Cape Town
  • Closer Union (London: A. C. Fifield) published


  • April, OS returns to De Aar. Later visits Graaff-Reinet and other places November to February 1911
  • 31 May: Union of South Africa is formed
  • OS resigns from Women’s Enfranchisement League


  • April OS returns to De Aar; visits Victoria Falls in June
  • Woman and Labour (London & Leipzig: T. Fisher Unwin) published
  • July: Oliver Schreiner leaves for university in England, accompanied by sister Ursula and father Will Schreiner
  • OS stays Cape Town and environs from November


  • OS remains Cape Town until mid-April
  • Early June: Ettie Stakeby Lewis dies


  • Natives Land Act becomes law
  • 6 December: OS sails to England


  • After staying briefly in London, OS travels to mainland Europe, returns London early April, then travels again to the mainland in June.
  • OS returns to England from Holland in early August after outbreak of First World War
  • 11 August: Schreiner’s meeting with Lloyd George
  • Schreiner one of women intending to attend The Hague international meeting but refused passports; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom formed
  • Rebellion in South Africa


  • February / March: OS contracts measles for the third time


  • January: With others, OS signatory to a letter in the Times in support of Sir John Simon’s opposition to conscription, which formed part of the Military Service Act, having previously attended meeting in House of Commons.


  • December: OS part of a deputation to the Parliament about the Indian woman’s franchise


  • 11 November: First World War ends


  • 28 June: Will Schreiner dies Llandrindod Wells, Wales


  • 28 January: OS’s close friend Alice Greene dies
  • February: Theo Schreiner dies
  • SCCS visits OS in England in July
  • 13 August: OS returns to South Africa, with her nephew Oliver Schreiner, his wife Edna Schreiner and their baby, arriving 30 August.
  • 11 December: OS dies Oak Hill, Wynberg, Cape Town; buried Maitland cemetery


  • 13 August: OS reinterred at Buffels Kop, Cradock, Eastern Cape, with her baby daughter and her dog Neta



  • Thoughts on South Africa (London: T. Fisher Unwin) posthumously published
  • Stories, Dreams and Allegories (London: T. Fisher Unwin) posthumously published




  • From Man to Man (London: T. Fisher Unwin) is posthumously published




  • Undine (London: Ernest Benn) posthumously published