Browsing by Author "Rommelspacher, Amy Fairbairn"
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- ItemThe everyday lives of the white South African housewives(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2017-12) Rommelspacher, Amy Fairbairn; Grundlingh, Albert Mauritz; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of History.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study seeks to obtain an impression of the “interior” lives of English and Afrikaans housewives, as portrayed by two woman’s magazines - one English and one Afrikaans - which were in print in South Africa between 1918 and 1945. The quotidian activities of white South African housewives: their attempts to look after their families, their diets and beliefs surrounding nutrition, their concerns about society, what they wore and why they wore it, their routines inside the home and expectations of domestic life, their leisure time, hobbies and the ideologies supporting their actions are its chief concerns. Die Huisvrou and Mrs. Slade’s Good South African Housekeeping are the magazines used as primary sources to inform this work. They were chosen because both are specifically addressed to housewives and have not previously been utilised. The study of these magazines therefore provides a unique opportunity to compare womanhood and the spheres of ordinary life in these two cultures in a novel manner. Despite historical attention being paid to Afrikaans women as volksmoeders and participants in public and political spheres, the domestic realm of housewives in both cultural groups has remained largely untouched. Examining the details of the everyday lives of housewives in a specific historical context creates an opportunity to explore various aspects of women’s lives as well as the impact of the private sphere on constructing a history of South Africa. It is revealed that while the histories of Afrikaners and Anglophones are commonly considered to have emerged in opposition to each other, especially in the wake of the South African War (1899-1902), comparisons between the lives of housewives provide an opportunity to establish that most of these women’s daily activities were very similar and transferable between the two cultures. Both English and Afrikaans housewives were expected to care for their spouses, rear children, feed their families, be knowledgeable about food preparation and nutrition, clean and look after their physical appearances. Both also had access to cheap labour in the home to make their practical duties easier. More intriguingly, the pressures produced by events such as the World Wars, social changes and rapid industrialisation in South Africa affected, and in some cases, were perceived to be threatening, home life. External events and disturbances in society clearly resulted in reactionary responses within the magazines. A modification of divorce laws in the 1930s, for instance, created an atmosphere of panic in Die Huisvrou as women feared the demise of family life. As a result, pressures were put onto unmarried women to spend their time preparing for marriage and home life as opposed to joining the workforce for economic reasons. This investigation reveals the details of the lives of white South African housewives, and recognises the impacts that women’s activities within the domestic sphere had on society outside of the home and vice versa. Through comparing Afrikaans and English housewives, it is also established that women in both cultures held similar beliefs about family and society which were at the centre of their lives. Both were motivated by the philosophy that the success of a society primarily relied on the strength and success of each individual family’s home life within that society.
- ItemWork, wedlock and widows : comparing the lives of coloured and white women in Cape Town, 1900–1960(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2022-12) Rommelspacher, Amy Fairbairn; Fourie, Johan; Bickford-Smith, Vivian; Inwood, Kris; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of History.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation explores the lives of coloured* and white women in Cape Town from 1900 to 1960. This period includes the South African War, the formation of the Union, white women obtaining the vote, the two World Wars and the formalisation of apartheid. The comparison is appropriate because the population sizes of the two groups were similar – and there were many other social and cultural similarities, from language to religion. One important difference is that while white women have received some academic attention in South African history, coloured women have not. This work aims to fill the gap. I do so using sources such as a household survey and marriage records in order to understand their position in society. Themes that are investigated include marriage age, employment trends, family structures, living standards, wages and the gender wage gap, to name a few. Although these topics might seem disparate, they are all aspects of women’s lives that have been identified as important factors in understanding women’s agency within a society. Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have argued that these aspects of women’s lives, such as whether or not they are employed in paid labour, play a pivotal role in their own position in society as well as that society as a whole. Ultimately, my purpose is to study the factors that shaped the lives of coloured and white women in early twentieth-century Cape Town. In other parts of the world these aspects of women’s lives have been investigated by historians in much detail, but women’s history in South Africa has been marked by different concerns and approaches. When South African scholars first turned their attention to women’s history, the country was in political turmoil amidst the apartheid regime; this set the tone in the field for decades. This thesis focuses on the history of coloured and white women in South Africa by asking new questions and adopting new approaches to answer them. While the subject is no longer neglected in South Africa, there are areas of women’s history and approaches to the field that have been overlooked. Women’s history has been limited by the availability of sources – and these sources usually focus on specific aspects of women’s lives, such as their involvement in political organisations or events. Often, though, we lack a basic understanding of women’s social lives. This has forced historians to make assumptions; assumptions that I am able to test with new evidence. This dissertation therefore challenges some ideas that have been expressed in existing historiography. One such idea, for example, is that all white households employed domestic servants in South African history. New sources and approaches show that this was simply not the case. This dissertation also provides significant information on wages – something that is severely under-researched in South African history. This wage information is used in this thesis to determine the nature of women’s work in Cape Town, to understand race and gender wage gaps and to ascertain whether Cape Town was a male-breadwinner society. Interdisciplinary methods and new ways of using source material now provide the opportunity to study hidden aspects of women’s lives that have been disregarded. These new approaches can challenge past assumptions and shed light on new questions.