From Words to Deeds: the Story of the Olive Schreiner Scholarship
In 1955 a group of Olive Schreiner’s former friends and admirers of her work founded a scholarship for South African women: in accordance with her ideals of education for women and equality of opportunity for all peoples, the scholarship was open to South African woman, irrespective of race, colour or creed, who wished to study at a university in South Africa. The scholarship was administered by a committee of trustees until 1985, when it was handed over to the University of Cape Town. This essay traces the story of the Olive Schreiner Scholarship. The founding of the scholarship is set against the background of Schreiner’s ideas on the importance of education for all women, as expressed in her polemical writing and her letters. Using as a primary source the minutes of committee meetings, the essay goes on to show how Schreiner’s ideals were carried forward in the aims of the founders and trustees and in their practical management of the Olive Schreiner Scholarship from 1955 to 1985, a time of institutionalised inequality in educational opportunities for South Africans of different communities. The legacy of the scholarship is illustrated using extracts from the responses of five former scholarship holders to a questionnaire submitted to them in 2020.