"Marriage, women's financial independence" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box 12/Fold1/Undated/45
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date5 October 1912
Address FromDe Aar, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToAlice Greene
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
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. The date has been written on this letter in an unknown hand. Schreiner was resident in De Aar from late 1907 to December 1913 when she left for Europe.
1My darling Alice
2
3The more I think of it the more I feel sure the Cape Times must have
4misrepresented you. I know you hold with old fashioned occupations for
5women, but I don’t think you wold would sneer at the women who try
6to make a career for themselves & relieve the awful pressure on the
7sexual market, which shuts women up to making a living by giving their
8bodies to men whether they love them or not, or drawing a terrible
9comparison with women in the few craft open to teaching, boarding
10house keeping, & milliners & dress makers assistants &c If you had
11worked among prostitutes & studied the question as I have I am sure
12you would feel with me that each woman who helps to open a new carrer
13to women does more for humanity that can ever be calculated.
14
15In South Africa I know of any women who have ever tried tried to make
16careers for themselves & it is yet to be seen if they will succeed.
17Dot & Ursie & Wynnie Tucker. Perhaps you will say their place is at
18home “helping mother”. But how can a woman need “help” who
19keeps three or four servants & has nothing to do herself? The number
20of women I know personally who have been forced into marriage who were
21not fitted to be wives & mothers & who did not really love the men
22they married but took the man they disliked least, because they had no
23other career open to them is appalling.
24
25The paper makes you talk of manly & womanly qualities But I know of
26none such. There are two sets of qualities – Courage (such a you
27showed when you attacked that Kaffir was was attacking your school
28girl) sincerity, loyalty; generosity; intellectual rigour, which I
29believe are naturally & parat a part from training as much natural to
30women as men. (Have any men on earth ever shown more courage than the
31(often little frail women) who are enduring the horrors of
32imprisonment & forced feeding in battling for their ideal? As a
33powerful man said to me last week “There isn’t a social reform on
34earth for which I would I would go through what those women are going
35through.”
36
37And there are other qualities cowardice, falsehood, cruelty,
38selfishness, stupidity which are surely just as inherent in women as
39men. The Baby-farmers, procurers, step mothers, & women slave owners
40are are just as cruel, & false & cowardly as men. What are the manly
41qualities & the womanly apart from early training in the home?
42
43Of course I agree with co-education at Bedales & every where. What the
44South African college with its perfectly equal co-education has done &
45is doing cannot be calculated, & even our up country schools which a
46practically always co-education. As Oliver was saying to me the other
47day, there is no calculating the good the co-education at the S A
48College & else where has done. - & he is a young man who has
49experienced it.
50
51Darling, sweet, Alice I’m writing all this to try to explain to you
52what I felt when I read the report in the papers of your speech.
53I’ve lots more I want to say, but my hearts very bad. I am getting
54attacks of faintness & I can’t write much.
55
56I’ve been trying to write a letter to my dear old brother Will &
57haven’t managed it. Ursie is very happy just starting her studies, &
58has been meeting some some of my old friends. The Havelock Ellis’s
59&c & they all love her.
60
61Will you send me the Bedales address I want to send it to Mrs Smith
62(Adela Villiers) whom you met I wish so much she would send her little
63boy there. He seems a wonderfully brilliant child mentally, but
64physically not very robust. I think it would be so good for him.
65
66The thermom= is standing at 90 in the cool shade on the shady side of
67the stoep.
68Olive
69
70Dear I do think you such a wonderful person, & thats why it was such
71pain to me to feel I couldn’t quite agree with you.
72
Notation
Alice Greene's speech was reported in the Cape Times or Cape Argus and concerns some speeches or addresses she gave concerned with 'The existing franchise of the South African Union' and 'Problems arising from the Unification of South Africa', when she returned to South Africa after eight years absence. In the absence of more specific dates for the speeches, it has not been possible to trace the newspaper reports.