Did you know?
Olive Schreiner’s house in Cradock is a satellite of Grahamstown’s National English Literary Museum.
There are many traces of the Victorian-era author, pacifist and feminist Olive Schreiner in the Karoo, the arid heartland of South Africa.
However, there are probably none so evocative as the Olive Schreiner House in Cradock, a little river town in the Eastern Cape. This small, flat-roofed house in Cross Street – built in about 1850 – was where Olive came to stay at the age of 12.
Her father just had been declared insolvent, and the family was in deep crisis. Olive’s brother Theo, as headmaster of the local public school in Cradock, gave her shelter at Cross Street. With her came sister Ettie and then her younger brother Will.
Cradock, in 1867, was an idyllic farming village on the Great Fish River. It was then a staging post for adventurers heading up-country, and was well known for its blacksmiths, wheelwrights and ironmongers.
Olive stayed here for 3 years, before leaving to work as a governess in Barkly East. She returned to the area in 1875, and five years later she had written her landmark book, The Story of an African Farm. It was published in London in 1883, under the male pseudonym of Ralph Iron.
Her book was an exposé of Karoo farm life and inequalities between races and genders. And although Schreiner had connections in Britain, her heart remained in the Karoo. She lived in various Karoo spots, including Matjiesfontein, Hanover and Kimberley.
Schreiner married Samuel Cronwright in 1893. They shared a love of the Karoo and held socio-political views far ahead of their time. Storyboards of their lives are on display at the Olive Schreiner House in Cradock.
The couple, a child who died shortly after birth and a family dog are all buried on top of Buffelskop, a hill near Cradock with a panoramic view of the Karoo.