In 1885 Adele Steinwender arrived in South Africa from Germany. Her vocation was that of a teacher, but unlike the majority of white women who moved to the colonies to teach, Steinwender taught the children of the missionaries, as opposed to the local children. During her five years in Bethanie, a Berlin Mission Station in the Orange Free State, she kept a diary recording her observations of day-to-day life. Steinwender’s diary reveals certain aspects that were often neglected in the diary of the male missionaries, namely the domestic side of life. Her commentaries provide one with a unique perspective on missionary activities, not only because she is writing as a woman, but because although she is in the employ of the Berlin Mission Society, she herself, was not a missionary. Thus her reflections are that of an “outsider”. She was an outsider in more senses than one, considering she was an unmarried woman, who was financially independent, and this set her apart from the other woman who lived within this community at the time. Another aspect that made her unique was that she was the most recent arrival from Germany. Although the white residents of Bethanie did attempt to uphold their germanness during their time spent abroad, they had somewhat adapted to a more “colonial lifestyle”. Throughout her diary, Steinwender cites examples of such cultural adaptations amongst the people living there. That having been said, however, the missionaries and their families still held a feeling of superiority over the local population and there was a deeper sense of German nationalism that was prevalent at all times. This study examines the diary alongside nationalism and gender and provides one with an image of what a community was perceived like through the eyes of Steinwender. She proved to be the exception more than the rule, yet there is a perpetual undertone of her wanting to fit within the confines of what was considered to be normal.
Dissertation (MHCS)--University of Pretoria, 2008.