Maria Elizabeth Rothmann

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This article is about the Afrikaaner writer. For other uses, see Mer (disambiguation).

Maria Elizabeth Rothmann, penname M.E.R. (Swellendam, 28 August 1875 – Waaihoek, 7 September 1975) was an Afrikaans writer, and co-founder of the Voortrekkers youth movement.[1][2] Her unique contribution to Afrikaans literature was an ethical didactic, cultural historic review of a bygone Afrikaans society.[3]


She was born Maria Elizabeth Rothmann in Swellendam, in the then Cape Colony. She was one of the first South African women to attend a university. She acquired a B.A.-degree at the South African college in Cape Town. At the age of 22 she started working as a teacher, first in Johannesburg, later in Grahamstown and eventually at Swellendam. On 18 September 1902, while in Grahamstown, she married Herbert Charles Gordon Oakshott, a school principal. From this marriage James Rothmann (later Jacobus or Koos) was born in 1903, and Anna in 1904. The couple reached a divorce on 4 July 1911. MER then kept her maidenname. Anna Rothmann was also a writer.[4]

M.E.R.'s writing career started in 1918 in the lowveld. She became involved with journalism – first at Die Boerevrou (1920 to 1922) in Pretoria, and afterwards at Die Burger (1922 to 1928) in Cape Town. She became the first woman editor of the latter. In 1928, she was appointed the organising secretary of the A.C.V.V..[5] She travelled the country in this capacity, while investigating the question of poor whites.

In 1929, she was a co-founder of the Voortrekkers youth movement and afterwards also vice chairperson of the Cape Province's National Party. She also served on the Carnegie Commission. In 1938, she was awarded a Carnegie grant which she used to visit the US.

She received the Hertzog Prize in 1953 for her oeuvre of prose. In 1961, she received the Scheepersprys vir Jeugliteratuur for Die tweeling trek saam (The twins join the Trek). In 1970, she received the Tienie Holloway-medalje vir Kleuterliteratuur for Karlien en Kandas (Karlien and Kandas).

She received two honorary doctorate degrees, one from the University of Cape Town in 1951 and another from the University of South Africa in 1973; inter alia for her contributions to social work. She died ten days after her 100th birthday, at her home Kom nader (Come hither) in Swellendam.


Note: The English titles given here are translated from Afrikaans, and are not available as such.

  • Kinders van die Voortrek (Children of the Front Trek) – 1920[6]
  • Die Sokka-boek: stories van 'n skaaphond (The Sokka book: stories of a sheep dog) – 1926
  • Vanmelewe: stories van die voorouers (Times past: stories of the forebears) – 1926
  • Onweershoogte en ander verhale (Stormy heights and other stories) – 1927
  • Die kammalanders (Denizens of Kammaland) – 1928
  • Die oorwinnaar: verhale van President Steyn (The victor: stories of President Steyn) collected by M.E.R. – 1929
  • Jong dae: 'n meisies-storie (Young days: a girls story) – 1933
  • Sokka se plaas (Sokka's farm) – 1933
  • Na vaste gange (Towards firm corridors) – 1944
  • Drie vertellings (Three narratives) – 1944
  • Uit en tuis (Home and away) – 1946
  • Stoute bengel: 'n verhaal uit die lewe (Wayward boy: a story from life) – 1947
  • Die eindelose waagstuk (The endless wager) – 1948
  • Die gewers (The givers) – 1950
  • Goedgeluk (Fortuity) – 1958
  • The drostdy at Swellendam (The Drostdy at Swellendam), with A. Rothmann—1960
  • Die tweeling trek saam (The twins join the Trek) – 1960
  • Kom nader; bloemlesing uit die werk van M.E.R. (Come hither; anthology from the work of M.E.R.) – 1965
  • So is onse maniere (Thus are our customs) – 1965
  • Vroue wat Jesus geken het (The women who knew Jesus) – 1965
  • Karlien en Kandas (Karlien and Kandas) – 1969
  • My beskeie deel; 'n outobiografiese vertelling (My humble share; an autobiographical narrative) – 1972
  • Familiegesprek: briewe aan haar dogter (Family conversation: letters to her daughter) – 1976
  • Van naby gesien: ’n keur uit die kortkuns van M.E.R. (Seen from nearby: choice selection from the short stories of M.E.R.), compiled by Elize Botha) – 1976
  • 'n Kosbare erfenis: briewe 1916–1975 (A treasured inheritance: letters 1916–1975) compiled by Alba Bouwer, Anna Rothmann and Rykie van Reenen—1977
  • M.E.R.-versebundel (M.E.R. poem volume), compiled by Carl Lohann, music by Awie van Wyk, illustrations by Ina Pfeiffer—1985

She translated the following works from Dutch to Afrikaans:

  • Tant Alie van Transvaal: die dagboek van Alie Badenhorst (Aunt Alie of Transvaal: the diary of Alie Badenhorst) – 1939
  • Oorlogsdagboek van ’n Transvaalse burger te velde 1900 — 1901 (War diary of a Transvaal citizen in the field 1900 — 1901), a candid diary of her brother Fritz Rothmann—1976


  1. ^ "Maria Elizabeth Rothmann" in Dictionary of South African Biography (DSAB).
  2. ^ European-language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa 1986 -isbn 9630538326 p217 bibliography "72 C. J. von Wielligh, Maria Elizabeth Rothmann (1875–1975): 'n Bibliografie (Stellenbosch: University of Stellenbosch Department of Librarianship, 1975)."
  3. ^ Paola Bacchetta, Margaret Power Right-Wing Women: From Conservatives to Extremists Around the World 2013 isbn 1136615709 "Rothmann and most of her colleagues on the ACVV executive committee were voteless but politically committed women. ... Apparently, her minimal interest in fashion did not include the voortrekker dress patterns promoted in Die Boerevrouw ..."
  4. ^ Rosemarie Breuer, Jill Adams -Stellenbosch Writers: Stellenbosch Authors of Books 2005 p223 "...1903 – 1999 Author of several youth books and a historical book Anna W. Rothmann was a daughter of the writer M E R (Maria Elizabeth Rothmann). She studied at Stellenbosch University (1924 BSc, 1926 Secondary Teacher's Diploma, "
  5. ^ LeRoy Vail The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa 1991 p70 "By 1924 the ACVV had appointed its first full-time social worker and a leading member, M.E. Rothmann, was a member of the Carnegie Commission on the poor whites which reported in 1932." The new Nationalist government in 1924 faced.."
  6. ^ Lantern – 20 1970 p98 "This brother, F.L. Rothmann, helped her with her great story of the Voortrekkers written for children, for he had done much research among people of Voortrekker stock in the Transvaal. She therefore gives the impression of having been an ..."