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Those Bloody Women: Three Heroines of the Boer War

THE Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 has been called the 'last gentleman's war', but that is no reason to ignore the emergence of three remarkable women: Lady Sarah Wilson, Hansie van Warmelo and Emily Hobhouse. Although all three were determined, fearless and strong-minded females, each represented a contrasting viewpoint of the conflict.

Lady Sarah Wilson, youngest daughter of the 7th Duke of Marlborough and aunt to the young Winston Churchill, was a conventional British 'Jingo'; happy to act as Baden-Powell's leading lady in the stirring imperial drama of the siege of Mafeking. Hansie van Warmelo was a staunchly republican Boer, dedicated to the cause of Boer independence and no less convinced of the serf-life status of black people within her country. Most admirable of all was Emily Hobhouse, the liberal, pro-Boer Englishwoman who bravely exposed the shocking neglect, mismanagement and appalling death toll in the British concentration camps.

Set against the tumult and tragedy of the war, the adventures of these three troublesome women — 'that bloody woman', Lord Kitchener called one of them — throw a fresh light on the bitter colonial struggle. Their exploits, ranging from the farcical to the deeply moving, played no small part in the controversies which reverberate in South Africa to this day.

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