'Volksmoeder' : mother of a rugby playing nation

  • D.C. Allen

Abstract

This study investigates the role allocated to women in Afrikaner society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and how it came to form an integral part of emergent Afrikaner nationalism. Created by men and sustained through the male dominated realms of politics and rugby, the notion of Volksmoeder or 'Mother of the Nation' promoted the virtues of 'ideal womanhood' and became a central unifying force within Afrikanerdom in the years following the Anglo-Boer War. Although the concept of the Volksmoeder defies precise definition, it nevertheless incorporated a clear role model for Afrikaner women and became part and parcel of the Afrikaner nationalist mythology. Synonymous with Afrikaner paternalism, it was a deliberately constructed ideal, the work of male cultural entrepreneurs who deliberately promoted a set of images surrounding women. Based on the exploits of Voortrekker women and perhaps more significantly, those who'd suffered at the hands of the British during the 1899-1902 conflict, the notion of an 'idealised womanhood' was woven into a male-dominated nationalism.

(S. African J. for Research in Sport, Physical Ed. and Recreation: 2001 23 (2): 1-6)
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print ISSN: 0379-9069