Untold history with a historiography: a review of scholarship on Afrikaner women in South African history

17 February 2016

In ‘The Rise and Fall of Afrikaner Women’ (2003), Gilliomee argues that Afrikaner women’s history ‘is the biggest untold story of the Afrikaner people’, and in doing so ignores the research on Afrikaner women’s history. This ignoring of women’s history may be attributed either to orthodoxy in historical writing or the lack of a review on women’s history despite a relatively large body of work, focussing in particular on Afrikaner women. Although contributions to women’s history come out of a wide range of disciplines, including literary theory, political science, anthropology and history proper, it is my contention that there is a definable trend developing in South African historiography which particularly represents the history of Afrikaner women. This article explicitly shows that the history of Afrikaner women is not untold through a review of the contributions of scholars whose work form part of (what I call) the historiography of Afrikaner women. This article not only contextualises Afrikaner women’s history against the backdrop of tendencies in historical writing but also focuses on the major themes in the historiography of Afrikaner women, including identity, political agency, labour, welfare, class, reproduction and particularly the ongoing debate of the ‘volksmoeder’