Feminist, Pacifist, Traitor?
By Elsabé Brits
A new biography of a remarkable Englishwoman, Emily Hobhouse, that draws on significant and previously unknown sources, including her diaries and a draft autobiography.
'Here was Emily . . . in these diaries and scrapbooks. An unprecedented, intimate angle on the real Emily'
Elsabé Brits has drawn on a treasure trove of previously private sources, including Emily Hobhouse's diaries, scrap-books and numerous letters that she discovered in Canada, to write a revealing new biography of this remarkable Englishwoman.
Hobhouse has been little celebrated in her own country, but she is still revered in South Africa, where she worked so courageously, selflessly and tirelessly to save lives and ameliorate the suffering of thousands of women and children interned in camps set up by British forces during the Anglo-Boer War, in which it is estimated that over 27,000 Boer women and children died; and where her ashes are enshrined in the National Women's Monument in Bloemfontein.
During the First World War, Hobhouse was an ardent pacifist. She organised the writing, signing and publishing in January 1915 of the 'Open Christmas Letter' addressed 'To the Women of Germany and Austria'. In an attempt to initiate a peace process, she also secretly metwith the German foreign minister Gottlieb von Jagow in Berlin, for which some branded her a traitor. In the war's immediate aftermath she worked for the Save the Children Fund in Leipzig and Vienna, feeding daily for over a year thousands of children, who would otherwise have starved. She later started her own feeding scheme to alleviate ongoing famine.
Despite having been instrumental in saving thousands of lives during two wars, Hobhouse died alone - spurned by her country, her friends and even some of her relatives. Brits brings Emily's inspirational and often astonishing story, spanning three continents, back into the light.
Elsabé Brits is an award-winning journalist. Since 1999, she has worked at the daily newspaper Die Burger in Cape Town, following a six-year stint at a community newspaper in Polokwane. Currently she writes for Netwerk24.com and Media24's Afrikaans newspapers. In 2011, her first book, on bipolar disorder, was published by Tafelberg.
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- Publication date:
01 Mar 2018
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