E.L.C. Watson se pionierstog deur Suid-Afrika (1912)

  • FJG van der Merwe
  • L Maritz
Keywords: E.L.C. Watson, motorcycle, women's rights, Women's Christian


E.L.C. Watson's pioneering trip through South Africa (1912): The pre-First World War era in South Africa can undoubtedly be characterised by a number of aspects. However, two widely divergent aspects with a common denominator have been selected as the topic. On the one hand there was the struggle for women's rights and on the other hand the boom in motorcycling. The expedition by Ms E.L.C. Watson linked these two poles. The advent of the bicycle brought about a radical change. Suddenly the traveller had complete freedom of choice about the distance and route he wanted to travel. In the light of the Victorian era with all its restrictions, this new freedom of movement was very alluring. The motorcycle evolved out of the bicycle. Following the first Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy) in 1907, there was no stopping the popularity of the motorcycle. This influence was felt even in South Africa. It was in this zeitgeist that Ms E.L.C. Watson did her pioneering work by becoming the first person to travel through South Africa by motorcycle. Her trip can be regarded as a continuation of the emancipation of women that had caused thousands of women to turn to cycling a decade earlier. Rapid industrialisation led to the emergence of socialism, which protected the rights of workers. People became more liberal in their thinking. An example of this was women who pressed for suffrage. In Edwardian Britain, Watson was a modern and innovative woman. She was actively involved in women's rights and poverty issues in England and also wanted to make a contribution in this regard in South Africa. However, she found that the wounds caused by the Anglo-Boer War had not yet healed. In view of so much political turmoil the women's suffrage movement was not a priority for the South African government. Her expedition unfortunately did not enjoy much media coverage. The poor reporting left a huge void. Her impressions of the country and its people, full reporting on her public appearances, and her views on South African women and labour issues in particular would have been invaluable.

Keywords: E.L.C. Watson, motorcycle, women's rights, Women's Christian Temperance Union, Motosacoche

South Africa Journal of Cultural History Vol. 21 (2) 2007: pp. 28-42

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eISSN: 1011-3053