Famous women of the Boer war

Famous women of the Boer war

Most Books I have read about the Boer war have concentrated on the famous men from that period, men such as Botha, joubert, Smuts, Kruger, Smuts and de la Rey but what about the women that stood with them during this painful period of South Africa’s history.

Gezina Susanna Frederika Wilhelminna Kruger (5.5.1831 – 20.7.1901)

The wife of President Paul Kruger came from an era of hard living where as children they had trekked away from British rule into the hinterland and freedom. Gezina was the Niece of Paul’s first wife. It has been said that for Gezina home and hearth were the most important aspects of life, from their marriage 16 children were born of which a few died young. After he husband had been elected President of the ZAR a move from the farm Boekenhoutfontein to their new home in Church Street was necessary. Even in ill health her priority was to ensure that Paul was looked after, she was not a person to put herself first or to hog the limelight. State business was left to her husband and what I had not realised was at commencement of the Boer War she was 68 years old and very ill.

After Pretoria had been taken by the British the Kruger’s home was guarded by the military, President Kruger had left the country via Lourenco Marques, Gezina due to her ill health had not been able to accompany him, at meal times Gezina would take food to the British soldiers guarding the house with the words “God se dat jy moet jou vyande liefhe”

Annie Francis Bland Botha (3.7. 1864 – 20.5 1937)

Born on the Natal south coast she later moved with her family to a farm between Vrede and Harrismith, Annie was educated at St Michael’s convent in Bloemfontein. When the family moved back to Vryheid it was here that she met and fell in love with Louis Botha, after the marriage the young couple moved to a farm in the Waterval district of vryheid. During the Boer war Annie was asked by Lord Kitchener to speak to her husband and see if he would be prepared to meet with him, this did not happen. Mid 1901 Annie was allowed to leave South Africa for Europe where she looked to gain support for the Boer cause. Annie after the war was instrumental in setting up the Suid – Afrikaanse Vrouefederasie vir volksopheffing. Annie travelled tirelessly to set up many branches in the country.

Jacoba Elizabeth de la Rey (1856 – 11/8/1923)

Affectionately known as Nonnie the de la reys farmed on the property called Klipbankfontein near Lichtenburg, with the success of this farm they purchased another farm called Elandsfontein and it is here that they lived until the death of General de la Rey, the couple produced 10 children from the marriage. During the war Mrs De La Rey either by herself or together with other Boer women managed to stay out of the hands of the British, writing a book about her experiences after the war.

Koos and Jacoba loved each other very much and Jacoba once wrote “our life together was like a strong stream of clear water”.

Hendrina Susanna Johanna Joubert (27.9.1830 – 8.9.1916)

As a Voortrekker child she survived the attack by Zulu Impi’s and subsequent massacres at Bloukraans and Bosmansrivier. Hendrina was probably best known for accompanying her husband Piet Joubert to the battlefront. Hendrina would camp a suitable distance from the main Laager. According to her memoirs she was the first person to actually spot the British troops on Majuba during the First Boer war, Hendrina also accompanied her husband twice on overseas trips.

The Jouberts had 8 children of which only 4 survived, the family farm was called Rusfontein in the Wakkerstroom district. As mentioned during the two Boer wars she accompanied her husband to the front, after his death she moved to Pretoria and concentrated in trying to improve living conditions in the Concentration camps, during the war she also kept in regular contact with Boer forces and was also involved in the escape of Jan Cilliers out of Pretoria.

During the 1914 rebellion Hendrina now 84 years old led a huge march to the Union buildings to demand the release of Boer prisoners (shades of the 1980’s and 1990’s).

Sybella Margaretha Smuts (22.12.1870 – 25.2.1954)

Affectionately known as Isie or Ouma Smuts in later years, Sybella was a strong woman in her own right but stood by her husband as a rock as his international reputation grew. Sybella was the second oldest of 9 children and matriculated at a time that few women even studied never mind attained higher education. When Jan Smuts studied for 4 years in England Sybella took that opportunity to study the classics and was fluent in French, German, Greek, Dutch, English and Afrikaans. It is said that she regularly read the Old Testament in Greek.

Isie was sick for long periods during the Boer war and Lord Kitchener sent her with her 11 year old sister and friend Ella de Wet to Pietermaritzburg were they lived under house arrest in a small but comfortable cottage. A request to move her to her family farm in Stellenbosch was refused. Even though she was very ill during the war she did not once ask Jan to abandon his cause or take a risk and come to visit her. Isie bore the loss of her son Kosie as well as the loneliness and not knowing what was happening with her husband with great stoicism. Sybella was very patriotic and anti British and would put stamps upside down on letters as a small protest and so that the king could stand on his head. At the birth of her children she draped the Vierkleur over herself so that her children could say hey had been born under the Transvaal flag.

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