Book Review: That Miss Hobhouse by John Fisher. The life of a great Feminist.

Portrait by Hugo Naude

I am currently busy with research on the period between 1900 and 1917, and in my quest to understand everyday life I like to read Biographies of people who played major rolls in that time period. I learn about their way of life, customs, weather, etc to get a better understanding of life in South Africa and the devastation we were left with after the concentration camps.
It was no small undertaking but I learn more about my people, the Boer nation, their tenacity and willingness to keep on fighting even though so much was against them. My quest took me to Emily Hobhouse and her significant part in the great turmoil my ancestors had to face and I discovered this book in my library: That Miss Hobhouse by John Fisher.

John Fisher's writing style came right down to the bottom of it all and he stood neutral in all views as he brought the facts to light. There is no great fanfare in his style, just an honesty I felt comfortable with as I read about Ms Hobhouse life, the people she met and her daily dealings as she went along to turn the world upside down to help those less fortunate.
About John Fisher: Little is known about this author and even after letting my fingers do the walking I found almost nothing about him. But this is what I could find:
John Fisher was born in 1909 in Stoke d'Abernon, Surrey, the son of Arthur O. Fisher a successful author and writer of sketches on Exmoor and Irish life. He won a history scholarship to Ballilol College, Oxford, and took a history honours degree there.  Afterwards he studied in Berlin.
For 15 years he was diplomatic correspondent for a group of English newspapers, and has covered assignments in twenty countries.
His favourite hobby was sailing. He is the author of 1815 - An end and a Beginning.

Emily Hobhouse was a woman not many liked but in South Africa she is still regarded as a hero that fought for the plight of women and children during the concentration camps and there after when everything that the Boer families held dear were lost.

On June 16, 1900 Lord Roberts issued Proclomation (No 5/1900): Which stated
Cquote1.svgWhereas small parties of raiders have recently been doing wanton damage to public property in the Orange River Colony and South African Republic by destroying railway bridges and culverts and cutting the telegraph wires, and whereas such damage cannot be done without the knowledge and connivance of the neighbouring inhabitants and the principle civil residents in the districts concerned;
Now, therefore, I, Frederick Sleigh, Baron Roberts, of Kandahar and Waterford, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., Field-Marshal, Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Troops in South Africa, warn the said inhabitants and principle civil residents that, whenever public property is destroyed or injured in the manner specified above, they will be held responsible for aiding and abetting the offenders. The houses in the vicinity of the place where the damage is done will be burnt and the principle civil residents will be made prisoners of war.
Roberts, Field-Marshal, Commander-in-Chief, South Africa. Army Head-quarters South Africa, Pretoria 16th June 1900. Cquote2.svg

I don't think we can truly say thank you enough to this dear lady that fought on our be halve. She was often misunderstood by her fellow Britains which the author showed time and again in letters written by people who met her, people that reacted to her articles in the newspapers, her own family. She was not afraid to confront her peers, the government and high officials and had made many "enemies" because of her believes. Because of her persistence many other people were send who had discovered the same horrendous acts Ms. Hobhouse had written about in her letters, acts that were done to the women and children of the Boers all in the name of greed. But the harshes desperation was in the time after the concentration camps where families were left with nothing. Again, this lady came and brought forth great effort to lighten the plight of all involved and her sympathy was seen as she herself weren't afraid to go through harsh times herself to help where ever she could. Comfort was of no importance if that meant she could lighten the burden for those who had lost all earthly possessions
Through the author's writing you feel a deep admiration for this woman that made such a big difference in the Boers and their fight to be independent. Although she wasn't perfect her drive to help and bring the attention of those less privilege to the forefront made her a true hero that refused to back down long after the war was at an end.
This is still true today. Governments in South Africa have changed but the desire to govern ourselves has never diminished and again we are faced with an enemy that tries to kill us. This time however, the enemy is clever doing it "underground" as hundreds of thousands of Boers are killed each day with no one to fight back. Many of my people land in squatter camps and living under the most severe circumstances with a government that cares less about them. I cannot help but notice the similarities between the period of concentration camps and now. It is as if the history is repeating itself. 
What can we learn from Ms. Hobhouse life?
The quick answer will be: not to be silent. Not to stop until all avenues have been taken to help those in need. To talk and write and show the world what is truly going on in this country. To never lay down and allow the enemy to rule or win. 
The lesson that I learn from her and my people is that I can overcome all obstacles no matter how difficult it might be. To not be afraid to talk, to take risks and at times to loose. No matter the outcome our voice will live long after we are no longer here. 


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