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Ellie Schreiner

Helen (Ellie) Schreiner (1864-1865) was the twelfth and last child of Gottlob and Rebecca Schreiner. She died aged just seventeen months. Ellie’s life and death exerted a powerful influence on Olive Schreiner, with this is reflected in the ‘Prelude’ of From Man to Man, which is dedicated to Ellie and to Schreiner’s daughter who died shortly after her birth. In a number of letters, Schreiner identifies Ellie’s death as a key turning point in her life which led to her rejection of conventional Christianity and ultimately to her becoming a freethinker. In a letter to John T. Lloyd of 1892, for instance, Schreiner commented: “I think I first had this feeling with regard to death clearly when my favourite little sister died when I was nine years old. I slept with her little body until it was buried, & after that I used to sit for hours by her grave It & it was as impossible for me then, as it is impossible for me now, to accept the ordinary doctrine that she was living on somewhere without a body.”
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