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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box5/Fold1/1912/14
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday 21 April 1912
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. The date has been written on this letter in an unknown hand. Schreiner was resident in De Aar from November 1907 until she left South Africa for Britain and Europe in December 1913, with some fairly lengthy visits elsewhere over this time.
1 Sunday morning
3 Dear old Man
5 Have you seen Het since I left? What does Theo think of her condition?
7 I enclose a cutting from a Johannesburg paper which will show you that
8the Socialist do look upon me as one of their folk. Why 28 years ago I
9a was one of the eight women, with Hellen Taylor, in the chair, ^John
10Stuart Mills niece
^, who started in a small underground room near the
11Houses of Parliament the Woman’s branch of the Democratic Foundation
12– the largest socialist organization in England. I also was one of
13the original drawing up of the constitution of the "Fellowship", an
14organization which afterwards numbered twenty thousand members. I have
15never be able to bind myself to any one section of any great world
16movement, like socialism or the woman it seems to fetter me. Its not
17my function. The different sections working to a common end, seem to
18me all good in their own way, & there must be different sections –
19just as in a great army there must be foot, horse, & artillery!
21 I gave up the ten last years of my life to labour, & the question of
22Prostitution – not studying them thoroughly but working at them
23practically at first hand. I didn’t only work with the lower class
24of street prostitutes, I got wealthy men I knew to introduce me to the
25wealthy class with whom they consort: the women who drive in carriages,
26 & run through thousands in a year – & wisdom I learnt was that all
27tapping at prostitution from below, all "rescue work" & homes &c were
28useless. That we must alter the whole relation of woman to man, to
29life, & the society she lives in if we want to stop the disease. That
30is why I fight so for the vote. It is one of the first little steps
31towards that re organization, which the coming generations will see
32slowly fulfilling itself. If the vote were to be only a vote & end
33there it would be nothing. I have an idea sometimes that perhaps our
34little Ursulas work in future years, will be towards such ends. Return
35the cutting.
37 I’m more thankful than I can say that "Ons Land" has made a wise
38stand on the "Black Peril" matter.
40 I am still feeling more deeply than I can tell you dear old Steads
41death. I backed him up in his great "Maiden Tribute" movement 25 years
42ago, & since that he has always played a part in my life. His life
43would have been invaluable if he had lived to write it.
45 Good bye dear. Take care of my old mother.
46 Olive
The cutting referred to is no longer attached. Schreiner's 'Maiden Tribute' comment refers to W.T. Stead, as the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, publishing four articles under the heading of 'The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon' on prostitution and the age of consent, published in the paper on 6, 7, 8 and 9 July 1885; Schreiner organised a petition in support of Stead.