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Letter ReferenceAutograph Letters Collection: Alys Pearsall Smith ALC/7/3/15
ArchiveNational Women's Library, London
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date4 September 1908
Address FromCape Town, Western Cape
Address To
Who ToAlys Pearsall Smith m. Russell (1894)
Other Versions
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
Legend
The Project is grateful to the National Women's Library, London, for allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Autograph Collections.
1 Cape Town
2 Sep 4 / 08
3
4 Dear Alys Smith
5
6 I’ve always put off writing to you because I’ve wanted to write
7you a really long letter.
8
9 My darling little niece Dot is here, & I’m so delighted to find her
10great friends are your nieces the Costelloes. She is always talking of
11them & of your dear beautiful mother. It has been such a joy to me to
12have her here for these few weeks. In ten days I return to my solitary
13little house among the karroo sands & she goes back to Newham.
14
15 I was so glad to find it was all quite wrong about your husband, &
16read with much interest about his stand for election in the papers. My
17husband is a member of parliament here, & we have come down for the
18cession which will end in ten days. He has done good work this cession
19in bring in a woman’s enfranchisement movement which was again
20thrown out by the government but with a much smaller majority than
21last year. The woman’s Enfranchisement League here has reprinted his
22speech which I will send you. The great enemy of the women here is Mr
23John X Merriman the Prime Minister of the South African party to which
24my husband belongs.
25
26 Were he not Prime Minister I think we might have got the bill through
27this year. The curious thing in South Africa is that the men take a
28more enlightened view of the woman’s question than many women.
29
30 The place where we live is hundreds of miles from here in the most
31desolate part of South Africa, in a true desert, which is over four
32thousand feet above the sea, & where a few ironstone kopjes & vast
33plains of sand is all that is to be seen. The heat there is tremendous
34110 being quite a common temperature in summer. & for weeks together
35the thermometer at your bed’s head registers 89 at the coolest part
36of the night. There are no fountains or streams, & each person has to
37dig a well in their yard bored perhaps 100 feet through solid rock to
38get drinking water. It is really the most desolate part of the whole
39of South Africa, but by a whirl of fate we were landed up there in the
40war, & there we have had to remain ever since! It is a large railway
41junction, & the population consists almost entirely of railway men &
42natives living mostly in tin shanties.
43
44 I am telling you all this as you asked me to tell you about myself. I
45would be so glad if you could send me a photograph of yourself as you
46are now, & if you could get me one of your mother I should value it
47greatly.
48
49If you do send them, please address –
50Box 24
51De Aar
52Cape Colony
53South Africa
54
55 I am going to be taken next week & will send you a photograph of my
56husband & myself.unreadable
57
58 Good bye dear Alys Russell
59 Yours ever
60 Olive Schreiner
61