Women’s Rights Activist | Human rights activist | Political commentator
Born: 24 March 1855 Died: 11 December 1920
“We were equals once when we lay new-born babes on our nurse's knees. We will be equal again when they tie up our jaws for the last sleep.”
Renowned self-declared feminist, socialist writer, women’s right activist, and social theorist.
Best Known For
Influential works as a feminist writer and anti-war, anti-racist activist.
- Schreiner had various brief jobs, but eventually turned to writing as a way to stave off depression.
- In 1883, Schreiner wrote The Story of an African Farm. The book was revolutionary feminist writing for the time and became a best seller in Europe and the United States. The book was written under the pseudonym, Ralph Irons because of prejudice against women authors at the time.
- Schreiner wrote a number of political works, including Trooper Peter Halkett of Mashonaland in 1897, which attacked British imperialism and racism in South Africa.
- When the Anglo-Boer War broke out in 1899, the English burned her house and manuscript and sent her to a concentration camp for several years due to her public support of the Afrikaner cause.
- In 1907, Schreiner joined the Cape branch of the Women’s Enfranchisement League and became its vice-President. She withdrew her support for the league after she discovered other branches intended to exclude black women.
- In 1909, Schreiner’s book Closer Union was published, arguing for more rights for black people and all women.
- In 1911, Schreiner published Woman and Labour, which influenced the women’s emancipation movement in England and the United States.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“If the bird does like its cage, and does like its sugar and will not leave it, why keep the door so very carefully shut?”
“We were equals once when we lay new-born babes on our nurse’s knees. We will be equal again when they tie up our jaws for the last sleep.”
“When I am strong, I will hate everything that has power, and help everything that is weak.”
– Olive Schreiner, The Story of an African Farm
IN THE WORDS OF OTHERS
“I claim the privilege of having been a close friend of that great poetess and philanthropist and that most self-effacing woman – Olive Schreiner. She was a friend of the Indians equally with the Natives of South Africa. She knew no distinctions between white and black races. She loved the Indian, the Zulu and the Bantu as her own children … Such precious men and women have also been born and bred in South Africa.”
– Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Indian lawyer, politician and activist