Monday 03rd of February 2003 02:45 AM 
Biographies: Female Figures

Click on thumbnails to see larger images

Please note: I have added flags at the head of each biography in order to give visitors a way of seeing, at a glance, where the person was born, where they spent most of their life, and which side they fought for in the Boer War.

1st Flag=birthplace (if known)
2nd flag=main nation of residence (no second flag if birthplace was nation of residence)
3rd flag=side figure fought (or acted) for

EnglandNew Zealand
Bain, Wilhelmina Sherriff (1848-1944)

Wilhelmina Sherriff Bain Teacher, librarian, feminist, peace activist, writer.
Wilhelmina Sherriff (registered as William Sherif) Bain was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 5 September 1848, the daughter of Elizabeth Middlemass and her husband, John Bain, a spirit merchant. She came to New Zealand on the Gloucester in 1858 with her parents, four sisters and one brother and settled in Invercargill. Another brother, James Walker Bain, preceded the family to New Zealand, and became a MHR for Invercargill from 1879 to 1881 and mayor in 1892.
Wilhelmina Sherriff Bain (she always used her full name) became a teacher in 1879. She taught in and around Invercargill until at least 1893 but by 1896 was living in Christchurch where she worked as a librarian. As president of the Canterbury Women's Institute that year, Bain hosted the inaugural meeting of the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCW). She was probably the NCW member most identified with the cause of peace and arbitration during the council's first years from 1896 to 1906. She consistently articulated her opposition to war at NCW meetings and in public forums and once stated that she 'would live, and die, for Peace'. Her support for arbitration as a means of resolving conflict was rooted in her strong Christian faith and her belief in the bonds of humanity.
Bain lived in Christchurch until around 1899 then moved to Auckland, but by 1902 she was living in Taranaki, where she taught at Inglewood until 1904. At the 1900 conference of the NCW in Dunedin she delivered a speech on peace and arbitration which, while New Zealand soldiers were at war in South Africa, brought down the wrath of local newspaper editors and residents on the heads of the NCW. At the 1901 conference in Wanganui she was elected New Zealand's representative on the International Council of Women's standing committee on peace and arbitration, and in 1904 she travelled to Berlin to attend the quinquennial meeting of the ICW. She gave an address there and subsequently published a booklet on the proceedings. On her journey back to New Zealand later that year she also gave an address to the 13th Universal Peace Congress in Boston.
By 1909 Bain was working as a clerk in Riverton and looking after her invalid sister. From 1910 to 1913 she was employed there as a journalist. She worked hard in opposition to compulsory military training, introduced in New Zealand as a result of the 1909 Defence Act, and published a long article on this theme in the Southland Times in 1911. She also helped organised the Aparima Peace Union in 1912. However, peace was not her only interest: at NCW meetings she had also spoken in support of prison reform, women jurors, and protective laws for workers. As a teacher, she had agitated for more women on school boards and committees and the establishment of the principle of equal pay for equal work. A vegetarian and a spiritualist, she was also apparently an accomplished pianist and linguist; it is said that she spoke eight languages.
In 1914 at Invercargill, on her 66th birthday, Bain married Robert Archibald Elliot, a widower and general merchant from Fortrose. Elliot was quite a wealthy man who owned three general stores in Fortrose, Waimahaka and Tokanui. He died on 7 July 1920. Wilhelmina was not one to sit still, however, and in her 70s travelled to London where she had two books published: her collected poems, From Zealandia, and a novel, Service: a New Zealand Story. On her return she lived in Auckland until she died there aged 95 on 26 January 1944.
A tiny woman, 'perfect in her speech', her public profile was low in later years and when she died she was remembered for her 'distinct literary gifts' rather than for her activism against war.

United States of America
Barton, Clara (1821-1912)

American humanitarian and founder of the American Red Cross. Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born in Oxford, Massachusetts, December 25, 1821, and educated at home, chiefly by her two brothers and two sisters. She was a teacher at first and the founder of various free schools in New Jersey. In 1854 she became a clerk in the Patent Office, Washington, D.C., but resigned at the start of the American Civil War to work as a volunteer, distributing supplies to wounded soldiers. After the war she supervised a systematic search for missing soldiers. Between 1869 and 1873 Barton lived in Europe, where she helped establish hospitals during the Franco-Prussian War and was honored with the Iron Cross of Germany. Through Barton's efforts the American Red Cross Society was formed in 1881; she served as the first president of the organization until 1904. In 1884 she represented the United States at the Red Cross Conference and at the International Peace Convention in Geneva. She was responsible for the introduction at this convention of the American amendment, which established that the Red Cross was to serve victims of peacetime disasters as well as victims of war. She superintended relief work in the yellow-fever pestilence in Florida (1887), in the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood (1889), in the Russian famine (1891), among the Armenians (1896), in the Spanish- American War (1898), and in the South African War (1899-1902). The last work that she personally directed was the relief of victims of the flood at Galveston, Texas, in 1900. She died in Glen Echo, Maryland, on April 12, 1912. She wrote several books on the Red Cross and Story of My Childhood (1907).

, Dame Millicent Garrett (1847-1929)
 Dame Fawcett
British suffrage leader, born in Aldeburgh, England. At the age of 20 she married the British radical political leader, educational reformer, and economist Henry Fawcett. She soon became active in the woman suffrage movement, subsequently serving as president of the National Union of Woman's Suffrage Societies. During the War she was appointed to inquire into conditions in internment camps for Boer women and children. After the triumph of the suffrage movement in 1918, her organization became the National Union for Equal Citizenship. In 1925 she received the Grand Cross, Order of the British Empire. Her works include the novel Janet Doncaster (1875), The Women's Victory and After (1919), What I Remember (1924), and Easter in Palestine (1926).


Cape Colony
GLUCK, Mrs. Sarah (1875-1933)
Sarah Gluck
Post-mistress of the village of Lady Grey, who during the War refused to haul down the Union Jack when Boer forces occupied the village, an action that brought her international fame.

IrelandUnited Kingdom
HECKFORD, Sarah (1827-1903)
British traveller. Born Sarah Goff, she belonged to a wealthy Irish family, but during the 1866 outbreak of cholera she worked in the slums of London, where she married Dr. Nathaniel Heckford. Following his death she decided, in 1878, to emigrate to the newly annexed Transvaal. Arriving at Durban she became a trader among the Boers, travelling through the Bushveld with her oxwagon. On the outbreak of the First South African War in 1880 she returned to England, but about 1887 was back in the Transvaal farming near Pretoria. After the War she helped to reestablish schools in the devastated country.

Ms. Vivian Allen has written her biography (A Biography of Mrs Sarah Heckford).

EnglandUnited KingdomBoer Republics - War Flag
HOBHOUSE, Emily (8th April 1860-9th June 1926)
 Ms Emily Hobhouse
English social worker and reformer. Born in Cornwall, daughter of the Rev. Reginald Hobhouse and member of an influential political family. After a sheltered childhood, she went as a temperance worker to a mining camp in Minnesota, U.S.A., and later attempted ranching in Mexico. On the outbreak of the South African War she became interested in the South African Women and Children's Distress Fund, and learning of alleged abuses in the concentration camps went to South Africa to see for herself. She soon discovered that all was not well, overcame serious opposition, including arrest and deportation, but was finally allowed to reveal the facts. The abuses, mainly due to inexperience and administrative ignorance, raised a national outcry in England. Through the appointment of a 'Ladies Committee,' with influential backing, reforms in the camps brought the disgraceful mortality rate for women and children back to 'normal.' After the war Miss Hobhouse, now a national figure, started home industries for Boer girls in Philippolis, Orange Free State. She did further outstanding relief work in Europe during World War I. She was given a State funeral and was buried at the foot of the Women and Children's Memorial in Bloemfontein, the greatest honour the Afrikaner people could bestow.

EnglandUnited Kingdom
KINGSLEY, Mary Henrietta (1862-1900)

British explorer of West and Central Africa, who was the first European to visit parts of Gabon. Kingsley was born in London, the daughter of a medical doctor who traveled extensively. Kingsley made her first visit to Africa in 1893, following the deaths of her parents. She sailed to the Gulf of Guinea port of Calabar, on the coast of what is now Nigeria, and from there traveled inland. From the Niger River region to the north, she traveled southward as far as the lower Congo River region in what is now northern Angola. Throughout the trip she studied African religious practices. She returned to England in 1894. Kingsley returned to West Africa later that year, stopping first on the coast of what are now Cameroon and Gabon. In Gabon she traveled by steamboat up the Ogooué River. At Lambaréné, she continued her river journey by canoe into the Great Forest region, territory that was then seldom visited by Europeans. After studying the life and culture of the region's Fang people, she returned to the Cameroon coast. Before her return to England in 1895, she climbed Mount Cameroon (4095 m/14,435 ft), the area's highest peak. Kingsley made her final trip to Africa in 1899, planning to visit West Africa again, but the outbreak that year of the Boer War in South Africa led her to travel there instead. While working in Cape Town as a nurse caring for Boer prisoners of war, she contracted typhoid fever and died at the age of 38. Kingsley wrote several books about her experiences in Africa, including Travels in West Africa (1897), West African Studies (1899), and The Story of West Africa (1899).

Cape ColonyBoer Republics - War Flag
KOOPMANS-DE WET, Mrs. Marie (1834-1906)
Born in Cape Town, as Marie de Wet, she began life in the same house in Strand Street with which her name is permanently associated, her father being a well-known advocate in the city. In 1864 she married J.C. Koopmans, a Hollander, Usher of the Black Rod in the first Cape Parliament. Furnished in great style, her home soon became a centre of hospitality known throughout the Colony. She gathered treasures, particularly of early Cape art and furniture, from many parts. She was also a leader in the revival of the rights of Afrikaners. During the South African War, Mrs. Koopmans-de Wet allowed her house to be used as a depot for the collection of goods for the relief of women and children. After her death her original collection was dispersed, but the house was later bought and re-established as a museum of South African and national antiques, many of the early treasures finding their way back again.

Koopmans-de Wet House is situated at No. 35 Strand Street in the heart of Cape Town and only a short distance from a leading hotel, the Cape Sun.
The origins of the house go back to 1700. Its facade dates from the late 18th century and is a superb example of Neo-classical architecture. The furnishings in the historic house include valuable collections of porcelain, glass, furniture and art works. The house is famous for its unique wall paintings and vine which is reputedly one of the oldest in South Africa.

Koopmans-de Wet House is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. Closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Guided tours available on request: Tel. (27 21) 24 2473.

O'DWYER, Daisy May (1861(63?) -18 April 1951) [One-time wife of 'Breaker' Morant]

According to her own accounts she was born Daisy May O'Dwyer in the village of Ballichrine, north of Tipperary in either 1861 or 1863 . The date of 16 October 1863 has been quoted as being her actual birthday but in a birthday book in 1948 she wrote on the page of 16 October, "Daisy Bates aged 88, 1948". She said that she was of an Anglo-Irish Protestant family and certainly the forenames of Daisy and May are more usual amongst Protestant families rather than Catholic. The certificate for her marriage to Edwin Henry Murrant on the 13 March 1884 gives her birthplace as Glenacurra, Tipperary, and her age as 21. On this document her father is named as James Edward O'Dwyer, gentleman, and her mother as Marguerite Hunt. Murrant and O'Dwyer did not marry in church because it was allegedly a mixed marriage and this points to O'Dwyer being a Catholic.
Her birthplace and family origins are still clouded in mystery. There is no such place as Glenacurra in Tipperary although there is a Glenacunna. The name O'Dwyer is not common in Tipperary although Dwyer is common in that part of Ireland. There is no village of Ballichrine to the north of Tipperary although there is one much farther west.
She said that in her youth that she was made a ward of court of Sir George Outram and spent her youth travelling through Europe with the family. She also repeated this story but with the family of Sir James Hamilton.
It is probable that she was from an impoverished Irish Catholic family and was sent to an orphanage after the death of her mother and the departure of her drunken father (Possibly to America). She was trained as a governess and went to Australia as a free emigrant aboard the SS Almora on 2 November 1882 landing at Townsville on 15 January 1883. She met Murrant whilst she was working as a governess at Fanning Downs near Charters Towers. The Australian Dictionary of Biography mentions that she lived as a guest of Bishop G. H. Stanton in Townsville before heading south to take up an appointment as a governess in Berry, NSW.
The marriage to Murrant lasted a bare five weeks and they seem to have separated in April 1884 at the time he was indicted in court (and acquitted) for stealing pigs. Murrant went off as a stockman and probably never saw her again. Daisy drifted down to New South Wales and on 17 February 1885 married a stockman called John (Jack) Bates (1857 - 1935) at Nowra, New South Wales. This marriage was bigamous and she would have been liable to seven years imprisonment if discovered. The only child of this marriage was Arnold Hamilton Bates born in Bathurst NSW (hometown of Peter Handcock) on 26 August 1886. He was allegedly given the Hamilton name after the family who had been kind to her in earlier life.
Daisy Bates left her husband and child on 18th February 1894 and announced that she had to go to England to find out about a possible inheritance from a relative in Ireland. There is no direct evidence about her activities in England for the next five years. Her own account is probably fantasy. She said that eventually a relative by marriage, General Brownrigg, found a hotel for her near the British Museum and effected an introduction to William Thomas Stead (1849-1912), the proprietor and editor of a literary magazine, the Review of Reviews. He wrote with facility and sensational fervour on all sorts of subjects including Christianity, poetry, classics and history. He also conducted a spiritualistic organ Borderline which investigated the possibility of communicating with the dead. His keen sense of merit and kindly interest influenced many aspirants to journalism and literature. He went down aboard the Titanic in 1912.
She undoubtedly worked for Stead in 1895 because in later life she produced two letters from him relating to her employment. In 1926 she wrote a series of four articles for the Australasian magazine recounting her experiences with Stead and to which Stead's daughter took offence. She also gave a series of talks to the Karrakkatta Club in Perth saying that during her time with Stead as an office assistant and then as a journalist she met such people as Cecil Rhodes, Andrew Carnegie, Rider Haggard, William Gladstone and George Bernard Shaw.
She produced another story that she befriended a young woman called Lady Mary and employed her to help with the typing. She then learnt that this elegant and aristocratic young woman was working as a prostitute and accompanying wealthy men to hotels or country houses. This may be in fact a coded hint at Daisy Bates' activities in London. She also said that she quarrelled with Stead and found work (possibly in Norwich, but more likely in London) with the well-known publishing firm of Jarrolds which still exists.
She returned to Australia in 1899 and seemingly met up again with her husband and son. However they separated for a second time on 8 December 1903 and probably never met again. Jack Bates died in 1935. Arnold seems to have been boarded out with a family called Brewer.
At this stage she said that The Times had asked her to write about the Aborigines after a letter had been published in the newspaper recounting strong allegations of cruelty to Western Australian natives by the white settlers. She met a Trappist priest Father Dean Martelli on the voyage back and he interested her in working with the Aborigines and this became her life's interest over the next 50 years.
The rest of Daisy Bates life is contained in her book The Passing of the Aborigines which was first published in 1938. In this she tells of meeting the Duke and Duchess of York in Perth in 1901 (a photo exists), The Prince of Wales in 1920 and the Duke of Gloucester. She also allegedly met Queen Victoria. She was made a Justice of the Peace in 1920 and became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1934.
She lived amongst the Aborigines, by whom she was known as Kabbarli, the white-skinned grandmother, enduring their hard conditions. During this time she wrote some 270 newspaper articles on Aboriginal life. By 1945 she was back in Adelaide and died in an old peoples' home in Adelaide on 18 April 1951, leaving an estate valued for probate at £66, and is buried at North Road cemetery Adelaide.
In 1902 at the time of the execution of Breaker Morant in Pretoria she was legally his next of kin. Ironically she entered into correspondence with Ramon de Bertodano in 1945 on the subject of the Aborigines. He was the intelligence officer who played a major part in the investigations of Morant's wrongdoing. It is unlikely that they knew of their mutual connection.
Daisy Bates was almost certainly an incorrigible liar and a fantasist and it is quite possible that she influenced the young Edwin Murrant to invent a new past. The first instance of his change of name to Morant occurred one month after his marriage to her. She might have had knowledge of the Morant family who had roots in Tipperary and could have suggested the invention of a connection to George Digby Morant, who, the Breaker later claimed, was his father. There is no doubt that Daisy Bates was familiar with Debretts Peerage because she claimed a knowledge of the Hamilton and Outram families which was probably spurious.
There is evidence of a marriage between Daisy May O'Dwyer to an Ernest C. Baglehole in NSW in 1885. Baglehole was christened in Deptford, London in 1854. This marriage must have occurred early in 1885 because she married Bates on 17 February of that year.
Arnold Hamilton Bates married Lola M. Davidson in NSW in 1913 and served in the First World War from 1917 until 1919 as 2261 Pte Bates AFC (probably Australian Flying Corps).

Boer Republics - War Flag
RAAL, Sarah (Mrs O.J. Snyman) (1873-1949)
Fighter in the South African War. Born in the Orange Free State, she was living in the district of Edenburg when the war broke out. Her parents with their other children were placed in the Jagersfontein concentration camp, but she remained behind to run the farm, until she too was interned at Springfontein. Escaping, she joined the commandos under Commandant (later General) T.K. Nieuwoudt, with whom her brothers were already fighting. Unlike some women volunteers, she remained in female costume, carrying £500 hidden away in notes. In the spring of 1901 she was taken prisoner and interned in Kroonstad and later Uitenhage. In 1936 she wrote her experiences in a book Met die Boere in die Veld, which became a best-seller.

Cape ColonyBoer Republics - War Flag
SCHREINER, Olive Emilie Albertina
(24 Mar 1855 - 11 Dec 1920)
Olive Schreiner - Thumbnail only
Born in South Africa of a Boer father and English mother in 1855, she was one of the most significant feminist theorists of the twentieth century. She lived a life of incredible hardship: her father was a missionary of implacable religious zeal and her mother aggressively attempted to maintain a European sensibility as the family nomadically wandered from mission to mission throughout the Transvaal. Schreiner eventually became a governess, migrated to England briefly, joined one of the leading socialist organizations in England, the Fellowship of the New Life, and eventually became friends with Eleanor Marx, the daughter of Karl Marx. She returned to South Africa, where she entered into a disastrous marriage; later she became involved in the crucible of South Africa politics in which she initially became a passionate acolyte of Cecil Rhodes. However, the more predatory aspects of Rhodes' imperialist philosophy - his most famous statement was, "I prefer land to niggers" - disenchanted Schreiner, and when the South African War broke out, the English burned her house with all her manuscripts (including the first, long version of Women and Labour), and sent her to a concentration camp for several years. After the Boer War, she formed the Women's Enfranchisement League in Cape Town in 1908 and wrote the book that made her internationally famous, Women and Labour, in 1911. This book would become the bible of the women's emancipation movement in England and America in the 1910's, 1920's, and 1930's. Schreiner, however, never really lived to see the immense influence she would have; she died quietly in a hotel bedroom in Wynberg, Cape Town in 1920.

Go here for a chronology of Olive Schreiner's life.

Schreiner lived at No. 9 Cross Street, Cradock, South Africa, in her youth. A pictorial display of her life can be seen in the house. Schreiner House was bought by A.A. Mutual Life and subsequently restored as a joint project with the Town Council of Cradock. Schreiner's house in Cradock It has since been donated to the National English Literary Museum and was declared a National Monument in 1986. The local library has a special corner with her literary works and manuscripts preserved for posterity.
Olive, her husband, Samuel Cromwright, their baby and dog, were buried in a sarcophagus on top of Buffelskop Hill on the farm Buffelshoek, 24 km south of Cradock, on the Mortimer Road
From the top of Buffelskop Hill one gets a beautiful view across the Great Fish River Valley, the sight which so impressed Olive Schreiner herself, and the reason for her decision to be buried here. The walk up the mountain and visit to the gravesite is only recommended for those that are reasonably fit. A full half day is needed to complete this trip.

Permission to visit the grave can be obtained from the owner, Mr Hannes Moolman, at Tel. +27-48-881-3815 or 881-2683.


Boer Republics - War Flag
SMITHERS, Elsa Hampden (1862-1947)

South African author. She was connected with the Jeppes and other well-known pioneer families of the Transvaal. Her adventurous career included experiences in the Bantu campaigns near Lydenburg, on the gold fields and in both the South African Wars. On the Diamond Fields too she saw much excitement [sic]. Settling in Vereeniging, she published in 1935 an autobiography, March Hare, which became a best-seller.

Boer Republics - War Flag
VAN WARMELO-BRANDT, Johanna (1876-1964)
J. van Warmelo-Brandt - Thumbnail only
South African writer and nature healer. Born at Heidelburg, Z.A.R. (Transvaal), daughter of the Reverend J. Van Warmelo, she was educated at Cape Town and Johannesburg. During the War she took part in the secret activities of Boer women who smuggled information to the men in the field. This provided material for her book, Petticoat Commando, which made her famous. But that was not the end of her wartime activities. She also worked as a nurse in the Irene concentration camp near Pretoria, where the plight of the Boer women and children inspired her to write her less well known work, The Irene concentration camp in 1904. After the war she married Reverend L.E. Brand, a Dutch minister with the Dutch Reformed Church who emigrated to the Transvaal. She also had a keen interest in politics and was a founder member of the Women's National Party in 1915 in Johannesburg that soon became a nationwide movement. In 1916, she participated in the World Harmony Movement, served on the executive committee of her party and was appointed the honorary presidency of the party. She was very interested in natural therapies and wrote some books on that subject too. She also had a clinic where she practiced her natural therapies, including the "Grape Cure". She wrote two novels before she died on January 29, 1964 at the age of 88.

EnglandUnited Kingdom
, Lady Sarah Isabella Augusta (1865-1929)
Lady Sarah Wilson Military nurse. Born in England, Sarah Isabella Augusta Churchill, she was the aunt of the late Sir Winston Churchill, and the daughter of the Duke of Marlborough. In 1891 she married Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon Chesney Wilson. On her visit to South Africa in 1895, she met the Uitlander leaders in Johannesburg, and many well-known personalities including Cecil Rhodes and Alfred Beit. Before the South African War, in 1899 she went to spend a few months in Rhodesia. After five weeks in Bulawayo, she was caught at Mafeking when the war broke out. There she assisted in nursing the wounded during the siege, and was captured by Boer forces in December. Having been exchanged for a Boer prisoner, she then nursed in the Yeomanry Hospitals. In 1902 and 1903 she revisited South Africa and spent some time in Rhodesia. She wrote an account of her work and adventures in 1909.

Obit. Auckland Star. 27 Jan. 1944

Alig, Daniel. "Olive Schreiner," <>, Fall 1996.
Belfield, Eversley. The Boer War. Hamden: Archon, 1975.
Hutching, M. ' "Turn back this tide of barbarism": New Zealand women who were opposed to war, 1896-1919'. MA thesis, Auckland, 1990
Macdonald, C. et al., eds. The Book of New Zealand Women. Wellington: 1991
Muller, C.F.J. 500 Years: A History of South Africa. Cape Town: H & R Academia, 1981.
Rosenthal. Eric [comp.] Southern African Dictionary of National Biography. London: Frederick Warne, 1966.
Southern Africa Places, "Olive Schreiner House and Grave, Cradock, Eastern Cape, South Africa," <>, Date unknown.
West, Joseph (for information on Daisy O'Dwyer)


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Anglo-Boer War Museum
Also known as the War Museum of the Boer Republics
100 Memoriam Road, Bloemfontein. Includes photographs, memorabilia and research material. The Women's Memorial is next to the museum; erected in 1913, it commemorates the 26, 370 women and children who died in concentration camps during the war.
Open Monday - Friday 9am - 4.30pm, Saturday 9am - 5pm, Sunday 2pm - 5pm. Tel: (051) 447-3447. Fax: (051) 447-1322.

Further Reading

Brandt, J. The Petticoat Commando, or Boer Women in the Secret Service. London: Mills & Boon, 1913.

De La Rey, Mrs. A Woman's Wanderings and Trials During the Anglo-Boer War. London: Fisher Unwin, 1903. DT932D313.

van Reenen, R., ed., Emily Hobhouse: Boer War Letters. Cape Town: 1984.

Rive, R., ed., Olive Schreiner, Letters 1871 - 1899. Cape Town: 1987.

Summers, Anne. Angels and Citizens. British Women as Military Nurses 1854-1914. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988.

Walker, E. A. W. P. Schreiner: a South African. 1937. [other details unavailable]