The World's Great Question:
Olive Schreiner's South African
Edited by Liz
Stanley and Andrea Salter
Liz Stanley is Professor of
Sociology at the University of Edinburgh. She is the author of Olive
Schreiner’s Social Theory, Mourning Becomes: Post/Memory, Commemoration and
the Concentration Camps of the South African War, and twelve other books. She
holds Visiting Professor positions at the Universities of Johannesburg and
Pretoria and is a former Hugh Le May Fellow at Rhodes University. She has
worked on Schreiner’s remaining manuscripts as well as her letters and has a
book on them under way. Liz’s current research is on Whites Writing
Salter is Research Associate in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh and
holds a research position at the University of Cambridge. With Liz Stanley, she produced the Olive Schreiner
Letters Online (www.oliveschreiner.org) and now works on the Whites Writing
Whiteness project. She has published on the British social research organisation
Mass Observation, Olive Schreiner’s letters and political concerns, and
broadly on analysing ‘documents of life’ and the narrative, archival and
digital methodologies involved. Andrea is currently working on the role of
letters in organisational, institutional and business settings.
Review in the Pretoria
News: PN review
The World’s Great Question features over 300 of
Olive Schreiner’s key letters on South African people, politics and its
racial order. They are often prophetic and can still send shivers down the
spine. Immensely readable and insightful, her South African letters ----
- bring home Schreiner’s importance as one of the
world’s most famous women and a foundational figure in South African
literature and its political life at key junctures in its history;
- provide her unfolding critique of Cecil Rhodes, De
Beers and the violence of the British South Africa Company’s expansion
- show her influence
on key political fi gures including John X. Merriman, James Rose Innes,
‘Onze Jan’ Hofmeyr, Jan Smuts, F.S. Malan, and her brother W.P.
- demonstrate her
high profile role in the women’s suffrage movement and her friendships
with Mary Sauer, Julia Solly, Jessie Rose Innes, Caroline Murray and
- indicate the
political connections existing between white radicals and the emergent
black political elite, including Abdullah Abdurahman, John Dube,
Mohandas Gandhi, John Tengo Jabavu, Sol Plaatje, Walter Rubusana, J.K.
Soga, and Richard Thema
- ; show that ‘race’
and racism – ‘the world’s great question’ – became for her the most
important issue of all.
A page from Olive
Schreiner’s letter to Fan Schreiner, 7 June 1920
1909:11. 9 April 1909. Letter to Abdullah Abdurahman
Tamboer’s Kloof Road, Gardens, Cape Town. (Schreiner
Dear Dr Abdurahman
was a great pleasure to me to meet you & your wife248 yesterday
& I trust that our brief acquaintance may ripen into sincere friendship.
is a strange thing that you remind me so much [in] voice, manner, appearance
& character of FS Malan! I much hope I shall some day be able to bring
Malan fully into line with us. He is almost the only leading man who does seem
capable of seeing our question from the wide moral & human side.
am sending you a little paper I wrote during the war. The last
page will show you that even then I was thinking of & as far as I could
working for our cause.
soon as the Union Parliament meets I mean to gather together a body of white
women, & make an appeal to be heard at the bar of the house, – to petition
for extended rights to the native & the doing away of the colour bar on the
ground that having no vote our voice has not been heard in the drafting of the
constitution. If they refuse us I will print the speech I intended to make.
think your paper first rate. Please return the enclosed paper251 at once,
as it is the only copy I have, & I need it.