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Wynnie Hemming

Winifred or Wynnie Hemming was a daughter of Alice Hemming nee Schreiner and her husband Robert, and so one of Olive Schreiner’s nieces. After her mother’s death in 1884, Wynnie together with her siblings was cared for primarily by Ettie Schreiner, later Stakesby Lewis, who she came regard as a surrogate mother figure. Wynnie helped to care for Ettie during her final illness, and after her death in 1912 took up a teaching position in an orphanage called Marsh’s Memorial Homes in Cape Town, as well as being the key figure in maintaining the family networks, including managing shared property and finances. This included taking responsibility for the upkeep of her brother Guy, who had a number of breakdowns at a young age from what probably what would now be termed schizophrenia, and then lived permanently in a mental institution.

There are a fairly large number of extant letters from Olive Schreiner to Wynnie Hemming, spanning the period from 1876 when Wynnie was a child up until 1920. Wynnie herself remains a rather hazy figure as an individual, although she clearly played a prominent role in the extended Schreiner/Hemming family, particularly so for its younger generation. During Ettie’s last illness, was an emissary for Olive Schreiner in passing on news of Ettie’s condition and also receiving extensive advice and suggestions from Schreiner about how best to care for Ettie and make her comfortable. After Ettie’s death, there is a clear sense in Schreiner’s letters that Wynnie had begun to replace Ettie’s role in the family as the person who ‘took care of others’ and who lived a life of ‘duty’ and ‘sacrifice’. She wrote to Wynnie referring to “your brave sad life” and praised her work in caring for others and doing her ‘duty’. Certainly their mutual love for Ettie was a strong bond between Schreiner and Wynnie, with a letter from Schreiner in 1917 commenting that now “You and I are the only humanbeings who always have our wonderful darling in our hearts.”. There is also the sense that Schreiner had a greater feeling for Wynnie than for her other nieces and nephews.
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recipient icon Recipient Of
collection icon University of Cape Town, Historical Manuscripts: Manuscripts & Archives at the University of Cape Town is a leading location for accessing archival papers across many per... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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mentioned icon Mentioned In
collection icon National English Literary Museum, Grahamstown: The National English Literary Museum is the leading location for collections pertaining to the imaginative and creative writi... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon SCCS Edited Extracts: Four groups of edited extracts from Olive Schreiner's letters can be accessed from here, made by her estranged husband Cronwr... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon National Library of South Africa, Cape Town: Special Collections at the NLSA provide one of the leading locations for archival papers across many periods, organisations a... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon University of Cape Town, Historical Manuscripts: Manuscripts & Archives at the University of Cape Town is a leading location for accessing archival papers across many per... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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