Women’s legacy showcased

An exhibition themed We’ve Been Here, paying homage to Bloemfontein women’s history and strides made, will be held at the National Museum in Bloemfontein on Friday, (30/08).

This coincides with the celebration of Women’s Month which came as a result of the great women’s march of 9 August 1956. About 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the carrying of pass books.

The celebration of women of Bloemfontein is an initiative by the Art Bank of South Africa and the History and Collections Departments of the National Museum.

“We honour the women of Bloemfontein’s history and explore the concerns of contemporary women through the artworks by female artists selected from the ArtbankSA’s Contemporary Collection. The exhibition reflects on the presumed domains of women, control and nature,” said Derek du Bruyn, principal museum scientist of the history department.

The theme We’ve Been Here pays homage to women for having for decades been involved in the advancement of society. This celebratory exhibition will showcase 12 influential women to come from the City of Roses. Their immense role ranges from socio-economy, socio-politics to sport.

They are Molly Fischer, the wife of the well-known struggle icon Bram Fischer. She was as committed to the liberation struggle as her famous husband was.

Mother Emma, an Anglican nun, well-known as Sister Emma, Junia “Zero” Tlhobelo. Her legacy is black women’s tennis in the Free State capital, which can be traced back to the establishment of the Oriental Lawn Tennis Club – the first such club – in the township of Waaihoek in 1892. Her tennis career started in 1956 and she soon was nicknamed “Zero” because of her dominance on the court. She also played at the Bantu Social Institute (now the Caleb Motshabi Social Centre) in Batho.

Rahab Kgomo was trained as a nurse and worked in hospitals in Kimberley and Thaba Nchu. In 1947 during the British Royal Visit, Rahab was presented with a cup and saucer by the Royal family after leading an athletic procession. A devoted Christian and faithful member of St Patrick’s Anglican Church, she became a member of the White Cross Society (a temperance society promoting Christian purity and abstinence) and served as a lay minister. Rahab passed away in 2018.

Dolores Maritz, one of Heidedal’s most renowned and beloved residents, also known as aunt Dolores, became well-known for her charity work in Heidedal, notably her involvement in the Age-in-Action Club which keeps elderly residents involved in handcrafts and other community activities. During the 1920s and 1930s most of Bloemfontein’s coloured residents lived in Cape Stands, Bloemfontein’s oldest so-called coloured location. Dolores spent most of her childhood years in Cape Stands where she lived with five other children in her grandmother’s house in Rapulana Street.

Amy Barlow (née Slamat) was described by The Friend newspaper in its obituary as “well-loved for her generous spirit” married “one of the Free State’s few remaining Indians”, Tommy Barlow. Indeed, noted Volksblad, Tommy was, according to the 1946 census statistics, officially the only Indian resident of Bloemfontein.

Rachel Thoka experienced the Great Trek and survived a Zulu attack on the banks of the Mooi River in Natal together with the Griesel family. She was an experienced midwife and the first black woman to work in Bloemfontein’s Cottage Hospital.

As a community leader she led a protest march of Waaihoek women against the pass laws in May 1913. She died in Bloemfontein at the age of 115 years.

Florence Fraser, known as the “Free State Nightingale”, received great praise from all over South Africa and in London. Between 1918 and 1922 she was the president of the Presbyterian Church’s Women’s Association.

The exhibition also reflects amongst others on the life of Sophie Leviseur, Tibbie Steyn and Emily Mogaecho.

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