"Votes for women, 'Women & Labour' & sex book" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceLetters/503
Archive
Epistolary Type
Letter DateJuly 1912
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToAdela Villiers Smith nee Villiers
Other VersionsCronwright-Schreiner 1924: 309-10
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
When Cronwright-Schreiner prepared The Letters of Olive Schreiner, with few exceptions he then destroyed her originals. However, some people gave him copies and kept the originals or demanded the return of these; and when actual Schreiner letters can be compared with his versions, his have omissions, distortions and bowdlerisations. Where Schreiner originals have survived, these will be found in the relevant collections across the OSLO website. There is however a residue of some 587 items in The Letters for which no originals are extant. They are included here for sake of completeness. However, their relationship to Schreiners actual letters cannot now be gauged, and so they should be read with caution for the reasons given.
1To Mrs. Francis Smith.
2De Aar (? July).
3
4... I feel that the woman's movement is so vast that we all have quite
5distinct work to do in it. I induced my niece Lyndall Schreiner to
6give up being secretary to the Woman's Enfranchisement League in Cape
7Town, which took nearly all her time, and study law. If she passes her
8law exams well and gets admitted to the bar here, and still more if
9she becomes a great lawyer and one day, perhaps, a judge, she will be
10doing far more to raise the standing of women in South Africa than if
11she led the franchise clubs. I feel that I could do 20 or even 50
12times as much for woman's freedom by writing if I were well enough
13than by joining any societies. A friend of mine here who is saving and
14economising and working hard on her farm that she may give her
15daughters a good education and send them to Europe to study for
16profession is doing more to free women in Africa than any other woman
17I know here. If I, personally, had to devote myself to working for
18woman's emancipation in some special branch, I should devote myself to
19aiding women to enter professions and business, and to reform in dress.
20 But that is not to say that the vote and dozens of other things are
21not as important and more so. I sympathise with all the women of earth,
22 in whatever direction they are working, who are helping to do away
23with artificial distinctions of sex. I hate prize fighting, but I
24would I think be quite willing to cut off my left hand, if by doing so
25some woman would be made a great champion prize fighter. What we have
26to do, from my standpoint, is to break down all the artificial
27differences of sex, to leave each woman as free to develop along the
28line she feels her nature best fits her for. It would be a very wicked
29thing if a man who had the genius to become a great cook, a great
30artistic dressmaker, a great tailor, were by law prevented, because
31needlework and cooking are supposed to be the works for which nature
32has fitted women. So I feel it is a great crime if the woman who is
33perhaps the person in a whole country best fitted to be Prime Minister
34or Chief Justice, or great shop-builder is not allowed to become one.
35I would not care to be a politician or lawyer; I would prefer to be an
36architect - but Lyndall for instance and my friend Minnie de Villiers
37are splendidly fitted to be lawyers and not at all to be architects.
38