Between the sheets

Between the sheets

This blog should, but doesn’t, follow the topic of last week’s blog on the concept of the epistolarium. It should develop it in this week’s blog in terms of how the concept shapes up when thought about in connection with all the letters and collections that are part of WWW research. But life being what it is, something has come up and now sits between the sheets of paper on which these two blogs are written. It is, suitably, a letter. And I write about it here in honour of International Women’s Day.

More precisely it is an Olive Schreiner letter, which has been found through pursuing another thread of thinking into a number of archive collections, where it is part of the collection of a World War 1 organisation called the ‘War Emergency: Workers National Committee’, formed from across the labour movement in Britain. The archive visit was on Monday, when the letter was transcribed; it’s now late Thursday afternoon on International Women’s Day, and in the days since returning from the archive the background has been investigated.

In and of itself, her letter is very brief and rather mundane and simply says that Olive Schreiner supported the Appeal the WNC was making, that women doing war-work should have equal pay and join trade unions. There was, however, much more to it than that, as many letters from other women in the same collection indicate. So her letter is the very small tip of an enormous iceberg of feminist and women’s rights activism.

Schreiner’s letter has now appearedin the new letters pages of the Olive Schreiner Letters Online, together with more information about the context and background to the Appeal. This acts as a reminder, if such a reminder is needed, that letters generally do not make full sense when considered just in terms of the words on the paper. It is the context in which these words were produced, and then the context in which they were then read and acted upon or not, that gives this fuller sense of them.

The epistolarium through a South African lens? Next week!

Last updated:  3 April 2018


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