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Vrouemonument - National Women's Monument
Bloemfontein, Free State

Francois (Frans) SOFF: Architect

Date:1913
Type:Monument
Status:Extant


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29°08'29.74" S 26°12'30.10" E Alt: 1421m
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ERECTION OF THE MONUMENT

When President Steyn returned once more to his native land in 1905, his first and most fervent desire was to pay homage in some way or another to those women and children who laid down their lives during the Anglo-Boer-War for the freedom of their country.

On 20 July, 1906, a meeting was held at the home of Mr. J.W.G. Steyn. He was a brother of President Steyn, who presided at the meeting, the object of which was to devise ways and means for the erection of a monument. At the meeting were also present General Hertzog, Messrs Abraham Fischer, W.J.C. Brebner, C.H. Wessels, Rev. C.D. Murray, Rev Grosskopf, Mr. C.G. Fichardt and Dr. Stallreiter, all of them Free Staters.

It was, however, readily realised that they were dealing with a matter of national importance, which was the concern of the whole nation. A conference was consequently held at Bloemfontein once again presided over by President Steyn, at which were represented all the Dutch Churches in the various colonies of South Africa as well as different organisations, namely "Het Volk" in the Transvaal, "Oranje Unie" in the Free State, "Afrikaner Bond" in the Cape and "Het Kongres" in Natal.

This joint conference minuted, inter alia, the following resolutions:

"Resolution No. 1. This meeting feels that the time has arrived for the erection on South African soil of a monument in glorious memory of the mothers, women and children who died during the recent war or who suffered grievously in other ways in and outside the Concentration Camps.

Resolution No 2. It is decided that a worthy monument shall be erected to give expression to the nation-wide feeling of admiration for the women and children who suffered in the Concentration Camps during the war. The Monument shall be in the form of a commemorative pillar or statue on which and through which expression shall be given especially to the suffering endured by the Africander Women for her motherland".

It was further decided "that the Right Honourable the chairman be requested to issue a circular letter to the South African nation, exhorting them to support the noble undertaking" and ultimately "to call for plans, specifications and estimates for a monument costing approximately £10 000 -" no mean sum to collect by way of subscription lists in these years of poverty after the war.

On the 7th of July, 1911, the working committee was able to report to the "South African Conference at Bloemfontein" that they had already in hand a sum of £10,236.19.2, that forty plans had been submitted to them and that a sub-committee consisting of the Rev. J.D. Kestell, Prof. A. Moorrees and Mr. T.N. de Villiers recommended as the best the drafts of Messrs. Anton VAN WOUW and Frans SOFF and those of Messrs. McKINLEY and WHITE. The sum of £100 - offered as a prize, was divided between the two firms but the draft of Messrs. van Wouw and SOFF were ultimately accepted by the Committee.

Messrs. Roco de Villiers, A.W. MacHardy and Gordon A. Fraser acted as secretaries for the Monument Fund.

THE MONUMENT

The monument is an obelisk 120 feet (36.58m) high, built of sandstone from Kroonstad and resting at the foot of two kopjes, a few miles out of Bloemfontein. Impressive in its simplicity, the obelisk overlooks the surrounding kopjes and distant plains.

On the eastern and western sides of the column there is graphically depicted in bronze bas-relief a typical scene from the history of "mother's grief and children's woe".

Immediately in front of and against the obelisk two striking figures of women are depicted. The inscription at the foot of the monument - below the sculpture of the two women - reads as follows (translated from the Dutch):

TO OUR
HEROINES
AND DEAR CHILDREN
"THY WILL BE DONE".

THIS NATIONAL MONUMENT HAS BEEN ERECTED
IN COMMEMORATION OF THE 26 370 WOMEN AND CHILDREN
WHO DIED IN THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS
AS WELL AS OTHER WOMEN AND CHILDREN
WHO SUCCUMBED ELSEWHERE
AS A RESULT OF THE WAR OF 1899 - 1902.

Unveiled on 16th December 1913.

Four persons have been buried at the foot of the monument:

President Steyn
Mrs. President Steyn
General Christian Rudolph de Wet
Emily Hobhouse

[Reference: Van der Merwe, Dr N J; The National Women's Monument, n.d. (circa 1956); Bloemfontein, Sentrale Pers. Booklet written at the request of the Committee of the National Women's Monument and translated by prof. D. P. Britz.]

Text sent to us by William MARTINSON.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.


Writings about this entry

Bakker, Karel A, Clarke, Nicholas J & Fisher, Roger C. 2014. Eclectic ZA Wilhelmiens : A shared Dutch built heritage in South Africa. Pretoria: Visual Books. pg 203
Picton-Seymour, Désirée. 1989. Historical Buildings in South Africa. Cape Town: Struikhof Publishers. pg 125
van Tonder, JJ. 1977. Fotobeeld van 300 Monumente, Standbeelde en Gedenktekens langs die pad van Suid-Afrika. Krugersdorp: JJ van Tonder. pg 7