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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box4/Fold4/1911/9
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date6 May 1911
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToWilliam Philip ('Will') Schreiner
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to Manuscripts and Archives, University of Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Manuscripts and Archives Collections.
1 De Aar
2 May 6th 1911
4 My dear Laddie
6 Your card excited me so I lay awake much of the night thinking over
7little Ursie’s plans. When I was in Somerset East I wrote her a long
8letter suggesting her taking up the study of medicine or some other
9profession if you were willing she should; but I tore up the letter
10afterwards because I never now like suggesting plans of action to
11other people; the first impulse must come from themselves, then I am
12only too joyful to do any thing I can to help.
14 I think for many reasons it would be particularly good if Ursie took
15up medicine. One can’t enter into every thing in a letter. As to
16exams – it depends entirely where & how she means to take her
17degrees, a London M.B. ^taken with^ with honours & even without is a
18crushing exam. It hall marks a man or woman as having unusual
19intellectual powers of the exam taking order; but it doesn’t
20necessarily prove they are great as Doctors as the Dublin & Edinburgh
21& other simple pass degrees, I went over the exam papers carefully
22years ago when I was thinking of studying - & if I thought I could
23pass them – Ursula would have no difficulty. The London M.B. is a
24crushing thing because if you fail in one subject no matter how
25splendidly you have done in others you are back for a year. In most
26other cases ^if^ you fail in one subject you simply take that one
27subject up next year. The London final is an awful exam. They run you
28over everything you have taken in all the past years. If Ursie went in
29she should take the ordinary M.R.C.S & L.R.C.P. She may be just as
30good a doctor, the exams are no real rest of a doctors capacity as a
, simply of his exam=passing brilliance. When you think of the
32blithering fools who go get through a Edinburgh Dublin &c, its
33ridiculous to think Ursula would find any difficulty.
35 She could, I feel sure live with Alice Corthorn & attend the Woman’s
36Medical School Alice went to. It would be nice for Alice to have her
37board with her, & her Ursie it would be a great thing at least at the
38start to be with one who has gone through all, & could advise & help
39her on all points – Alice is a London M.B. Then she would have
40Oliver near a Cambridge so she would never be lonely. My only fear is
41that the life in London would be too interesting & perhaps prevent
42steady work. It is all a question of Will. If she wills to do it she
43will. She would have many advantages other women have not. Nearly all
44the medical students I have known were starving themselves on bread &
45tea, trying to educate themselves on an insufficient sum of borrowed
46money, & starving themselves to make it come out! She could have
47delightful holidays on the continent; & if she wanted to take an extra
48year to any exam = she need not feel that ruin stared her in the face.
49Even Ursula’s appearance will help her as a doctor. I know one who
50passed her exams splendidly, but she’s a little ?giggling red haired
51large mouthed sort of person, quite unimpressive! ^-^ & there’s a
52great deal of ?impression still about doctors still! I have a great
53friend in London with a fashionable ?Eakin ?Sy= clientele; a tall
54refined dignified unreadable man; he has often told me that his
55brother who gets about £800 a year by working hard is ten times the
56doctor he is, & he often calls him in in a difficult case. But his
57brother looks a rough uncouth fellow, and my dignified friend makes
58£6,000 a year out of fashionable people! I don’t for a moment think
59she ought to become a nurse. Nursing, typewriting, teaching & boarding
60house keeping should I think be left to the women who are poor, or
61have not the ability to do any thing else. The competition in these
62occupations is too severe, & they ^the women^ keep each other down. I am
63sure Ursie would have all the nerve, critical judgement & keep
64intuitive perceptions that go to make a good doctor – for medicine
65is still only an art, it is not a science; & I am sure that beneath
66that quiet reserved exterior of hers she has also that power of
67sympathy with suffering that is essential to a really great doctor.
69 At worse, if after a year or two years she felt she didn’t care to
70continue (but I’m sure she would) she could come home, & would have
71gained immensely indirectly by her studies & new out look on life.
72What has crushed many women medical students I have known has been
73their awful poverty. With good food, good holidays & no mental anxiety,
74 any tolerably fit woman ought to go through her course with enjoyment,
75 & quite without over strain.
77 Dear, I hope you can make out this awful scrawl. Thanks for the
78receipt. I’m just going to make my sour-dough & then go to bed. What
79ever I can’t do, I can make good bread. I wish I’d sent you down a
80loaf with Cron, that you might know what a "dab" I am. I mean to send
81some & take a prize at the next show here.
83 Love to all
84 Olive