Sunday 21 February 2016

West Country Tour … Emily Hobhouse (1860 – 1926) … part 22

Emily Hobhouse … it is time I set out a brief overview of this amazing woman, who worked for the displaced women and children in the 2nd Boer War (1899 – 1902), attempted to broker peace during World War One, and helped found the Save the Children Fund. 
Emily Hobhouse

Emily’s great niece, Jennifer Hobhouse Balme, was left a trunkful of Emily’s papers, which she has been converting into three books, which let us have a better overview of Emily’s life’s work … which has been forgotten here, but not in South Africa where she is revered.

I shall follow the four periods of Emily’s life: 
  • her early life; 
  • her introduction to and involvement with South Africa;
  • her wish for peace in World War One; 
  • her final years, where she still influenced and affected those who knew her, then and today.

The Chantry garden -
it was recently on sale
Emily was born in The Chantry, St Ive, outside Liskeard in Cornwall, to the Rector and his wife – both-well connected.  The house was full of laughter and gaiety while her mother was alive, but she died when Emily was 20 and her father ‘closed down’ in Victorian fashion.

Liskeard at the south end
of Bodmin Moor

She assisted her father with his parish work (St Ive, pronounced Eve, was the centre of a thriving mining district) and looked after him until his death in 1895.  

The Rectory (Chantry) from the drive

She longed for an education … and envied her brothers … though she picked up what she could from the family visits of relatives – many of whom were of high intellect – ecumenical members, peers, journalists, members of parliament …

… and it was during these early years she developed her social conscience, learnt as much as she could locally, on an international scale and about history, politics and empire.

Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse (1910)

Her favourite brother – younger by four years – Leonard, was an atheist from an early age, despite his father being an Anglican Priest for over 50 years.  

Leonard, after graduating, had a stint at the Manchester Guardian and as secretary of a trade union.

He was a peace activist and proponent of social liberalism, while their second cousin, Stephen Henry Hobhouse (1881 – 1961), was an important British peace activist who had been influenced by Emily’s findings on the ‘concentration camps’ for the Boer Women and Children in South Africa.

Virginia, Minnesota ( the Iron Mine at Rouchleau)

 A short time after her father’s death, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s wife organised for Emily to take on some missionary work in a mining district in Virginia, Minnesota; she also started a Temperance Society and a Public Reading Room Service.

While there her naïve personal relations were exposed, she became engaged to a man of questionable character, persuaded to purchase a ranch in Mexico – and then waited … her fiancé never matched her expectations, funds were running low, and she felt forced to break off her engagement, returning to Britain broken in heart, as well as very dispirited.

Leonard and Catherine Courtney 1916
On her return in 1899 she worked with a small group who were speaking out against the Boer War … and joined the South African Conciliation Committee, which had been set up by Catherine Courtney, wife of Leonard Courtney – the Liberal Member of Parliament for Bodmin and Liskeard – where Emily learnt about the plight of hundreds of Boer women and children who had been left impoverished and ragged by our military operations.

Emily founded the Distress Fund for South African Women and children, raised some funds and sailed for the Cape Colony in 1900 to supervise the Fund’s distribution.

Boer War 'concentration camp'
outside Bloemfontein, 1902
When she left England she knew of one ‘concentration camp’ at Port Elizabeth … but on arrival found many others, 44 in total … eventually there would be 64 of these tented camps.

During the Boer War and her travels to South Africa Emily became a thorn in the flesh of the British Government at a time when women were asserting their rights at home.

Boers at Spioenkop in 1900
(it is now a National Wildlife Reserve - and includes
a memorial and information site on the battle fields)
The British had declared war on the Boer Republics, The Free State and the Transvaal, to convert them to British colonies, which would eventually become the Union of South Africa, but in the meantime would keep the benefit of the Witwatersrand gold mines within the British Empire.

The Boers were winning the skirmishes, so the British moved to take away their supply mechanism – i.e. their farmsteads, stock and importantly their women and children.  

An Afrikaaner woman with her children in a camp

Unfortunately the policies of “scorched earth” and civilian internment in ‘concentration camps’ were the order of the day: the camps were originally called “burgher” or “refugee” camps (a burgher is a farmer or citizen).

Emily found the conditions appalling – supplies and rations had to be ordered two weeks in advance ... but how many people would, by then, be in the camps … the distribution was via a single track railway with the military demands coming first … the request for fresh water, extra food, blankets, medicines came second.

Spioen Kop on the edge of the eastern Free State
 On her return home Emily invested a great deal of time and energy lobbying, writing letters, detailing reports … exposing the conditions and inhumane treatment of women and children.

She was one of those quietly determined to expose the internment camps and to tell the British government and public about the “Scorched Earth” policy.  

She was not a politician, but her instincts were right ... and she lobbied everywhere she was able to get her voice out.

President Martinhuys Steyn of
the Free State

The Boer generals had capitulated after realising how appallingly their women and children were being treated … Emily admired the Boers for taking this action.

Her sympathies were appreciated by many in Britain, but she had trouble getting acknowledgement from the Government … the picture of apathy and impatience displayed at home, contrasted sadly with scenes of misery in South Africa.

She often returned to South Africa during those early years of the 1900s … usually under her own auspices and was thwarted on occasions by both Governments … but once the War was over she returned to South Africa and … then saw that her mission was to assist in healing the wounds inflicted by the war and to support the efforts aimed at rehabilitation and reconciliation. 

Gandhi spinning - perhaps he learnt from
Emily how to spin ... as they met on
occasion when he was still in South
Africa (though he's in India here)

She set up a home industry system teaching the Afrikaner women and girls – lace making, spinning and weaving … she raised funds to alleviate the outcome of the War.

She suffered from ill health for 20 years from those early years in the 1900s until her death … but she was indomitable in her spirit ... and she travelled far and wide.

The sculpture on the Monument dedicated to Women
and Children in Bloemfontein
As a result the Boers came to revere Hobhouse as an Angel of Mercy … a Monument dedicated to the Women and Children (the first of its kind to women and children) was built in Bloemfontein and for the unveiling in 1913 Emily was invited back to South Africa to unveil it and give a talk.  

She travelled to South Africa, but could not complete the journey north from Beaufort West … Mrs Tibbie Steyn, the Free State President’s wife, read it for her.

The populace gathered to hear Emily's address
in 1913

A hundred years later (2013) another Service of Remembrance was held at the monument to remember the suffering, but also to remember Emily’s contribution to South Africa.  There will be a book coming out via the Afrikaner Media Group auspices of ‘Naspers’.

The First World also cast a dark shadow over her life.  Wherever she could she raised her voice in protest against the War.  

The German Reich 1871 - 1918
She travelled throughout Europe … lobbying and finding supporters on both sides of the affray – those in Britain, as well as those in Germany … Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and France … she had learnt much and could outwit most politicians and government officials by moving around or persuading others to help her with her approach.

She wrote at the end of 1914 an "Open Christmas Letter" as a public message for PEACE addressed to the “Women of Germany and Austria”, signed by a group of 101 British women suffragists.

Jennifer Hobhouse Balme's book
on Emily during the First World War:
this is an excellent read
The Christmas Letter was written in acknowledgement of the mounting horror of modern war and as a direct response to letters written to American feminist, Carrie Chapman Catt, the president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, by a small group of German women’s rights activists.

She was in Germany in 1916 … lobbying to broker Peace – the Germans had agreed to a meeting, the British would not.

Her four objectives on her return to England in 1916 re the War were:

First get peace talks moving so as to avoid further bloodshed;

Second to obtain the release of civilian internees on foreign soil;

Third to get better food and supplies to the people of Belgium; and

Fourth to discuss the food position in Germany.

Her Boer War reputation had brought her many friends in high places, but also many enemies who (although she had been proved right) had not forgotten what they considered as slights against the integrity of their government.

Mrs Tibbie Steyn

When at the conclusion of the war, she again heard – this time from central Europe – the cry of distress coming from starving women and children, she once again devoted herself to bringing relief to the destitute.

Through her actions, tens of thousands of women and children were fed daily for more than a year.  Mindful of their own past, South Africa also contributed liberally to this effort.  Mrs President (Tibbie) Steyn sent over more than £17,000 to Emily for this purpose.

Emily’s fervent interest in humanity and the struggle for truth and justice continued unabated.  The first meeting of "The Fight the Famine Council" - the precursor to Save the Children - was held at Catherine Courtney's home in 1919

Her own actions and motives had been misinterpreted by her own nation during the Anglo-Boer War … and were a bitter pill to her right to the end of her life …

National Women's Monument - Bloemfontein
… but she was held in high esteem and loved by the South African nation and this certainly helped her thoughts.  Without her knowledge and on the initiative of Mrs Steyn a sum of £2,300 was collected and sent to her with the explicit mandate that she find herself a small home on the coast in Cornwall.

Her finances had been impoverished, so now at least she could buy herself a house, which she did in St Ives, west Cornwall, next to the Porthminster Hotel – it is incorporated into the hotel now.

She realised she was near her end … and in her last letter she wrote that her soul was full of the music of the Cornish songs she learnt in her youth.

She was recognised in death and her ashes found a final resting place in a niche at the Women’s Memorial in Bloemfontein.

Mahatama Gandhi 1909

She was loved by the people of South Africa and admired by those like Mahatma Gandhi, who asked for her help.  As well as the lobbyist and welfare activist she had become, she wrote books, loved to paint, and was an entertainer …

David Nash, Professor of History, argued in 1999 that (Emily’s)opposition to the Second Boer War began the tradition of peace politics that has flourished through the twentieth century …
Jenny has written her books from Emily’s papers in order to offer the British public the information in the interests of truth.
20,000 mourners lined the streets of Bloemfontein
when Emily's ashes were interred in the monument

I know this post is not that short … but please read and appreciate the social history as well as history I set out here.  

More can be found in Jenny’s books … particularly “Agent of Peace” ... where you will appreciate more about the First World War and those times in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium etc ... 
PS - I'm stressed ... I can't seem to get rid of the white - so 'give up'! apologies .. it looks messy - and I don't like that.  I've corrected it as far as you, as readers, can see.

This is the link to Amazon for the "Agent of Peace" book - as shown above ... 
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 18 February 2016

West Country Tour … igloos, cheeeeeeses, food and family time … part 21 ...

A good mix of stories to bemuse you, entice you, laugh at … during Jenny’s last evening in Somerset … and a right 'mingle' of photos - be warned!

The lady I knew as 'Aunt Maud' in 1915
I never mentioned Somerzet zider did I – probably because we didn’t get to have any … I think we both had cider on our way round … but once in Somerzet it got forgotten!  Too many other things to think about … that school house featured here ... 

Roses in full flower in late October 2015

This lady is Maud – wonderful chalk art work I thought – I knew her with a pile of white, beautifully coiffed hair … we would see her when we went to St Ives to see my great uncle and Maud’s sister … 

Roses by the front door ... 

... to play tennis, be tipped upside down by my uncle and tickled mercilessly … to be followed by a tea of thunder and lightning: homemade scones, Cornish cream, blackcurrant jam or treacle … I almost always had the lightning.

The Aga - with horse clothes airing ... and
a world map to help the kids with geography

Jenny’s mother was my great uncle’s sister … if this helps in the scheme of family – and thus the connections of us all.

Cupboard doors made from primary school desk tops

We were staying with Maud’s daughter, who had invited her own daughter and grandchildren (from the school house) over to meet Jenny – after all Jenny lived in the land of the igloo … all icy, freezing cold, and with lots and lots of snow: how does she cope?!

Igloo community from 1865 -
not sure if the kids thought Jenny lived this
sort of life style?!

This needed to be clarified … but provided us all with amusing thoughts and teasing of the young ones (the youngest a feisty lad – he needed to be with two older sisters); it was half-term so the family had friends from Wales down to stay … so we were ‘a crowd’ …

Somerset blue

Our hostess struggles with allergies to food, but had kindly brought all sorts for us … and had the family to foist left-overs onto.

Smoked salmon on bread

I helped with the snacks … I remember lots of smoked salmon on bread slices, some salmon slithers on their own, cheeses, veggie sticks and cucumber hunks – which I stuffed with one of the cheeses … some greenery … all good to go – and go it did.

There was lots of chatter and laughter, and making sure Jenny had time with the different members of the family …

The school room - with the raised dais as a dining area
… then we waved them off back to their school house … and settled to fixing up some supper – delicious … salmon with a lemon herb sauce, fresh veg and new potatoes … followed by a Waitrose dessert or fruit salad … I cannot remember what – but we were pretty full after the snacks etc

Herby sauced salmon

Then we had some cheese and coffee … Somerset cheeses – we could eat them, our hostess had a little of the goat cheeses … I love them all!

A variety of cheeses ... 
I was asked if I’d like some of the cheeses to take with me to my next stop (down the road) to see an English friend, whom I’d met in South Africa: which I wasn’t going to refuse! 

The other side of the sitting room - with the
mezzanine floor

Her parents live in the same town … so I was able to call in and see them … my mother and I had always called in, when they too lived in Sussex, for a sherry on our way down to my brother’s house in Sussex, when I came over from SA, and drop off letters, presents and news from their South African living daughter and grandchildren.

The other half of the house - up to the bedrooms

The next morning we ‘packed’ Jenny off to the train for London – and weren’t exactly early ... while the train was packed to the gunwales – still a porter was grabbed … and ‘orders’ issued to the guard on the train – to look after the treasured elder – a seat was found, the whistle blew and they were off.

View across the fields from the school room

We went back ‘home’ where I helped do what I could to clear up after our stay … and soon then I too packed and left.  A rest was needed for our hostess …

View from Maud's daughter's home

I took those cheeses with me … went off to pass the time before I could visit for tea and then meet Clare for supper and find my bed for the night.  The weather was now ‘wet’ … very damp and ‘depressing’ … still I found a place for a light lunch and a read …

The tiny lanes ... 

Every time during the rest of the day – I thought to myself – why on earth is my car so ‘stinky’ … it was wet gumboot smell, almost dung-like … I couldn’t fathom it!

It's almost November ... the leaves are still on the
trees, the grass is green ... yes Autumn is coming
but it took its time - now in February we wait for winter!

Oh well – tea calls … the car is still stinking … but it was lovely seeing Clare’s parents – it’s now been 37 years that I’ve been popping in to see them.

Chicken oven bake

Evening comes, Clare gets home from work and I wander across town to park – normally I don’t have a problem – but the local cinema was a few houses down … and the latest James Bond film had just come out – so no spaces.

We had a lovely evening just chatting and catching up - finding out how her sons were doing and generally nattering away.  She is an excellent cook ... and we had a chicken oven bake with lots of veg, then fruit and ... 

A selection of Somerset cheeses - not the ones we had!
… that packet of cheeses I’d been given – ah ha … now I know where the stinky-poo came from!!  We laughed … but thoroughly enjoyed ourselves – a treat of extra cheese.

Well that is the end of our journey … I stayed over one night, and then went home via Chichester, where I’d stayed the night at the start of my journey – with some other SA friends – as I needed to collect something I’d left.

Somerset Cider Press

For all these posts and travels, I’d only driven 600 miles: Jenny and I had six nights in hotels, two nights with friends/relatives … and I had a bookend night at the beginning and start of the trip. 

Carved Bench ends of the pews in
Altarnun Church

We had taken a few short side turnings – South Zeal, Brixham, Hartland Point, Altarnun … while some places needed more than one post …

Joss Merlyn walking from the Moors back to
Jamaica Inn
… as too our stay at Emily Hobhouse’s birthplace St Ive, near Liskeard, and where her story starts aged 35, in 1895 … the visit to the Moors … a few posts here … and why this journey was undertaken …

Lyles Golden Syrup - the very sweet
'lightning' part of thunder and
lightning cream teas

Jenny, I might say, went on to London and then onto other relatives, more Emily tie ins around the Bath area, before heading off back to Vancouver Island and her family.  

These are six Ciders and Perries from England
with some history to read

The worst thing about the whole trip ... is that I never had time with Jenny to go back over the trip, and to find out a few more of her thoughts and find out about that time in Bath.  I shall have to ring her.

Next comes my post on Emily Hobhouse …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories