Free burgher women in the 18th century and the quest for status

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 5
  • Abstract:

    Abstract: As the burgher population at the Cape of Good Hope developed over the course of the eighteenth century, identity and status became increasingly important. Material culture, used for the purpose of personal adornment, was a prominent means of demonstrating social positions. The growth of prosperity within the Cape further catalysed this process, having a particular effect on one group within Cape Dutch society – the burgher class. This article aims to explore the role of burgher women within Cape Dutch society, and demonstrates how this group used markers of distinction to denote their social position. By using objects such as clothing, free-burgher women managed to create an association with a particular status group, and in so doing increased their own social importance. Association with the higher echelons of society was particularly important to a group of nouveaux riches burghers who had started to intermarry with the VOC official elite. This article discusses the role of burgher women in perpetuating the notion of ‘conspicuous consumption’ as a means of increasing their status and social importance within their role in the Cape Dutch society.