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Letter ReferenceOlive Schreiner BC16/Box1/Fold3/1896/30
ArchiveUniversity of Cape Town, Manuscripts & Archives, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateSunday 3 October 1896
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToBetty Molteno
Other VersionsRive 1987: 291-2
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. The name of the addressee is indicated by content.
1 The Homestead
2 Sunday
4 Dear Friend
6 Thank you for your letter. No I don’t & have never thought the
7married woman’s life higher, nobler or at all necessarily broader
8than the single woman’s. What I did say was that in having a child a
9married, or any woman for the matter of that, should feel that she is
10receiving a great reward - & a woman who doesn’t feel so should
11never have children at all. It’s like writing a book - it may be a
12great labour & half kill you, but if you don’t feel it’s a great
13joy & bliss to suffer the agony of writing it, & a reward in itself,
14you’re not ft to write it!!
16 Women would never have too many children or more than they wanted if
17they made it a rule to think they couldn’t marry till they’d had
18^made^ a possible provision even if small for any possible child they
19might have: & for themselves had at least a sure mode of earning their
20own livings – however small. I would never had married & run the
21risk of having a child if I hadn’t known I could leave it the
22copy-right of An African Farm which would bring it it in £50 or
23perhaps £100 a year for many years.
25 I do think the husband & wife should share equally or almost so the
26care of the children: but ostriches are the ideal creatures to me in
27that respect - the way in which the male watches over the eggs & the
28young with as much tender solicitude as the female. My ideal is an
29equal care physical & mental from both father & mother, not simply
30that the man provides the money & the woman gives the labour. Of
31course one may say, but the man can’t ma share the woman’s
32physical suffering – well but the woman has the joy of possessing a
33child feed it from herself as a man can’t!
35 What I do hate is to hear a woman always groaning over her children,
36when other women would give year & years of their life & hard work to
37have one. I think the modern wealthy, and middle-class married woman
38tends to become very selfish, & to fall into a complete state of
39mental & moral disease. The women of old even if their husbands were
40wealthy worked in the fields (like Homer’s princesses who washed
41clothes!) & they wove the clothes for their families, & fed & reared
42their children themselves. But the modern middle-class woman has
43servants & governess & all sorts of single women to do her work, &
44then she sits & howls that she hasn’t every things she wants, & that
45she’s so badly off, because she has to bear children &c &c. It’s
46this kind of woman we want to do away with, & turn into a
. At the present day I think one the saddest things is
48that so many, I might almost say most, of the noblest & best specimens
49of womanhood do remain unmarried, or marry very late, & so leave no
50offspring, while the worst breed.
52 Cron has been away for some time visiting his mother & sister at
54^Hope Town but I expect him back tomorrow. Poor Mr Lloyd is very unwell. ^
56 Love to you dear heart & to Miss Greene.
57 Olive
59 ^Bessie Mackenzie spent yesterday afternoon with me. She’s a very
60fine girl. I am sending you a letter of Cron’s in the Midland News.
61You need not return it.^
Rive's (1987) version of this letter has been misdated, omits part of the letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.