Petronella van Heerden

Steve Reed sent a picture of old American cars in Aussie .. I wrote:

These lovely old motorised wrecks remind me of Swinburne character Abe Sparks’ Rolls Royce bakkie. And that reminds me of Nell van Heerden.

Dr Anna Petronella van Heerden, born 1887 in Bethlehem. She studied at the University of Amsterdam from 1908 to 1915 where she completed her medical degree. Van Heerden served as an intern at the Volkshuishospitaal in Bloemfontein in 1916 and had her own practice in Harrismith from 1917. She specialised in gynaecology in London from 1921 before returning to Amsterdam to complete her PhD in 1923. She moved to Cape Town where she practiced as a gynaecologist. She retired from her practice in 1942 to go farming in Harrismith.

Apparently she bought the Roller in England, toured the continent in it, then shipped it back to Kaapstad where she ran her specialist practice. This part about the car is according to my 96 year-old Dad.

She gave up practicing medicine and came to Harrismith to farm cattle and was legendary among the boere here.

..

..

..

..

..

..

Before that, she went digging:

Always dressed in khaki trousers, khaki shirt, sturdy shoes and hoed, she would answer my gran Annie’s, How are you, Nell? query with ‘Fair to bloody’ as she filled up her bakkie with Caltex fuel at Annie’s Central Service Station. She had a live-in girlfriend Freddie Heseltine, who sometimes had to move out to the cottage when Nell had city girlfriends over for wild parties on her farm Grootfontein, behind the mountain. So we were told!

A cattle farmer, she would be seen at the vendusies where if any of the boere made the mistake of saying something, she’d be ready along the lines of “Ja, (Jan, Piet, Koos) ek is n fokken vrou al lyk ek nie so nie!” A true character, salt of the earth, a socialist and a real mensch. Imagine how strong you’d have to be, being ‘anders’ in a milieu where being a Male White Afrikaans Christian made you a baas, made you automatically right and should have made all women appreciative and in their plek – and NOT at vendusies! And if they must be at vendusies they should serve the tea and koeksisters! The local boere would have known she was well-connected, though – she had served on National Party bodies – and was not to be taken lightly.

She did genealogy research and wrote two autobiographical books – I must try and get hold of them.

This from wikipedia and scielo.org.za (Scientific Electronic Library Online):

Anna Petronella van Heerden (1887–1975), was the first Afrikaans woman to qualify as a medical doctor. Her thesis, which she obtained a doctorate on in 1923, was the first medical thesis written in Afrikaans. She practiced as a gynaecologist, retiring in 1942. She also served in the South African medical corps during World War II.

She campaigned for women’s suffrage in the 1920s, and worked as a farmer after retiring from her medical work. She also published two autobiographical texts, Kerssnuitsels (Candle Snuffings) and Die Sestiende Koppie (the Sixteenth Cup), and other works, including: Waarom Ek ‘n Sosialis Is (1938) (Why I’m a Socialist), and Dames XVII (1969). Her awakening came, she writes in Die Sestiende Koppie, when she found out just how few rights women had, and that they were – she was! – legally classified with children and idiots!

~~~oo0oo~~~

This from Women Marching Into the 21st Century: Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo:

..

This from “Nationalism, Gender and Sexuality in the Autobiographical Writing of Two Afrikaner Women,” Viljoen L. (2008):

Viljoen investigates questions of nationalism, gender and sexuality in the autobiographical texts of Petronella van Heerden and Elsa Joubert, and makes the point that autobiography, a genre often considered marginal to the literary canon, can be regarded as a site for examining the impact of nationalism on the construction of gendered and sexual identity. Petronella van Heerden (1887-1975) became the first Afrikaner woman to qualify as a medical doctor and published two short autobiographical texts, Kerssnuitsels (‘Candle Snuffings’) and Die Sestiende Koppie (‘the Sixteenth Cup’), in the early 1960s. The article argues that van Heerden’s omission of overt references to her lesbianism can be attributed to the strong, though embattled, position of Afrikaner nationalism at the time her texts were published.

My guess is there would also have been a fair dose of Nell saying ‘its none of your bloody business’ in there as well.

There’s an article about Nell in Journal of Literary Studies. (the link takes you to a summary – they want US$43 to read the whole thing!)

~~~oo0oo~~~

From the National Library of Medicine: Petronella van Heerden (1887-1975) was born in South Africa. She studied medicine in Amsterdam from 1908 to 1915 and then worked as the first female doctor in her native country for 4 years before specialising in gynaecology in London. She then returned to Amsterdam, where she gained a PhD in 1923 on a thesis on endometriosis that was written in Afrikaans. She settled in Cape Town and participated in many political and emancipatory activities alongside her work as a doctor. She wrote two autobiographies.

Nell van Heerden died in 1975, aged 88.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Oh, back to the Rolls Royce! I imagine – but I don’t know this – that it was converted into a bakkie, a pickup, a ute, after Abe had bought it from Nell. We always heard stories of how Aussie sheep farmers ‘drove Rolls Royces around their farms, as the running boards were wide enough to carry dead sheep.’ Abe would have liked that, and my guess is he thought ‘Hell, I can do that too.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Kaapstad – Cape Town

boere – farmers

hoed – hat

vendusies – livestock sales / auctions

“Ja, (Jan, Piet, Koos) ek is n fokken vrou al lyk ek nie so nie!” – Yes, Koos, I am a fuckin woman even if I don’t look like one!

anders – different; anything other than white, straight, conformist and obedient

plek – place; as in ‘know your place’

koeksisters – ‘South African doughnut’; deep-fried, very sweet

bakkie – pickup; ute

~~~oo0oo~~~

Tributes:

Nell was the first female SA citizen to qualify as a doctor. Other women practiced medicine in SA before her, but they were not born here.

Before Nell van Heerden: The first female to practice medicine in South Africa was Margaret Ann Bulkley. She was born in Ireland in 1789. She disguised herself as a man and called herself James Barry from then on. She qualified as a medical doctor in Edinburgh in 1812 and practiced medicine in Cape Town  from 1816 to 1828.  She effected significant changes, among them improvements to sanitation and water systems, improved conditions for enslaved people, prisoners and the mentally ill, and provision of a sanctuary for the leper population; performed one of the first known successful caesarian sections in which both mother and child survived; the child was christened James Barry Munnik in Barry’s honour, and the name was passed down through the family, leading to Barry’s name being borne by a later Prime Minister of South Africa, JBM Hertzog. Her birth sex only became known to the public and to her military colleagues after her death.

Before Nell: Jane Elizabeth Waterston was born in Inverness in 1843. One of the first women to be trained at the London School of Medicine for Women where she took her medical degree in 1880. She received a medical license from the Irish King and Queen’s College of Physicians. In 1883 she became a physician in Cape Town, where she died in 1932.

Same time as Nell: Mary Gordon b. 1890 in Lithuania, qualified as a doctor at the University of Durham in 1916 and emigrated to Johannesburg that year, taking up a position at the Johannesburg hospital. By 1944 she was registered as a specialist physician. Died 1971 aged 80. (Wits Review Oct 2017 Vol 38)

After Nell: In 1947 Mary Malahlele-Xakana (1916 – 1981) was the first black woman to register as a medical doctor in South Africa. Born in Polokwane, she qualified at Wits.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Oy Vey!

I just read a book (this was in 2014) The Traveling Rabbi by Moshe Silberhaft. It was loaned to me by Pauline Shapiro, Montclair character of note. We got chatting – instead of doing her eyeballs – about how Durban had lost most of its Jews and Harrismith had lost all of its Jews.

Rabbi Moshe went around the country from 1995 to small dorps where the ever-diminishing number of Jews allowed them to live in peace and eat whatever they wanted till he came to give them a skrik and some guilt feelings. He tells me in his book that Bethlehem comes from Beit Lechem, which means House of Bread. His book has three pages on Bethlehem and the main talk is about Rabbi Altshuler, who died in 1983, and the de-consecration of the synagogue, which was converted into offices by attorney Gerald Meyerowitz. Then converted again: car parts shop. That’s pretty hefty de-consecration! That’s like being smote!

With the closing down of the Bethlehem shul Rabbi Silberhaft did the rabbi stuff: “The three Sifrei Torah were removed from the Ark and carried out of the shul by Syd Goldberg, Saville Jankelowitz and Sam Jankelowitz, then aged 90, assisted by Dr Harold Tobias, who had a bad back, in a very solemn procession.”

Shockingly, Moshe didn’t mention my mate Steve Reed as an honorary Jew and extra son of Harold Tobias! Obviously he hadn’t heard Stefanus spin his yiddish. Even more shockingly, he leaves out my whole town! He writes of Parys, Brandfort, the metropolis of Phillipolis, Bloemfontein, Bothaville, the ‘Hem (ahem), Sasolburg, Marquard, Marseilles (Marseilles?!), Heilbron, Winburg, Senekal, Ficksburg, Kroonstad, and other no-name-brand towns, but no mention of that jewel of the Eastern Free State – Harrismith!

Amazing. He writes about all those flat dusty nothing-dorps and he omits the one shining-light green-oasis in the Vrystaat!

I suspect Harrismith “died” before the others? We grew up with the Woolf Chodos’, the Cohens, the Shadfords, Mrs Schwartz, Fanny Glick, the Longbottoms, Randolf & Bebe Stiller and others whose faces I can see but names . . my Mom and Dad, Barbara and Sheila will remember . .

But by 1972 we were dancing to Creedence Clearwater Revival at discos put on by Round Table in the already de-commissioned synagogue – at least fifteen years before Bethlehem’s was closed. So Harrismith’s shul got elevated in its deconsternation – unlike Beflehem’s descent into legal then commercial ignominy!

Sigh! But once again Harrismith got smoked by Bethlehem in the fame stakes. Something to remember: A possible cause for our C-rating in the progress stakes post-1948: Harrismith was a big verraaier-dorp in the Anglo-Boer War: Its citizens that did so well for themselves (my ancestors included) in an independent Republic, WELCOMED and aided and abetted the invaders!! Not good. One of my ancestors was principled, fought for the Boers and was sent to Ceylon as a POW. The others benefited even more after the war from money the British army spent in the town. ‘War is hell, I’m not to blame’ –

~~~oo0oo~~~

– Bethlehem –

The book has plenty amusing snippets. As the last few Jews die in the dorps, Silberhaft buries them, sometimes in cemeteries that haven’t had burials in them for yonks and decades. “Gave the cemetery a new lease on life,” he says . . .

One oke’s Dad was scared of flying and specified: “Don’t you dare send me in a coffin in an airplane hold”, so his son rented a kombi and drove the body to West Park cemetery in Joburg. Silberhaft then buried him and wrote to the son “I know your Dad liked to jol, so I buried him near the fence in case he wants to get out and hit the town.”

Some okes had long given up the faith, so when he tried to visit them in their little dorp some skrikked and quickly – and maybe briefly? – became kosher again! Others were way past all that and “voetsekked” him! Sent him packing.

Seems Silberhaft had a big thing about strict kosher living and – especially – eating. He would make a big thing if people were kosher and a bigger scene if they had slipped off the strict and narrow – and slippery! – path. Even though to stay kosher meant you had to have your meat brought in from outside, or have a kosher slaughterer come to you to slit your animals! He would take kosher meat in his boot to give to people – which suggests that in between his visits they probably ate pragmatically? Hey! Bacon. Some things are forgivable. Pigs have no chance of amnesty cos of bacon; I even have a best man who will occasionally wobble off the straight and narrow and into a bacon sandwich and that’s what forgiveness is for.

Pictures of the Bethlehem shul by Jono David at jewishphotolibrary.wordpress.com. It’s now a car parts shop, but check the lovely pressed-steel ceiling and the chandelier.

The Bethlehem cemetery picture is also Jono David’s. He’s also at jewishphotolibrary.smugmug.com

~~~oo0oo~~~

Steve Reed, Bethlehem Boy, wrote:

Thanks Koos, interesting stuff. We lived across the road from the Bethlehem shul. In a flat which was the subject of great intrigue to my school friends, all of whom had huge family homes in Oxford street and Cambridge street. The Tobias residence was in an even fancier part of town, along with the Meyerowitz residence, the Goldberg residence and others, high on the hill. Here you found swimming pools and things called “rumpus rooms.” I was an adopted member of the Tobias family, yes. From the wrong side of town, near Kraay’s Bakery. The Mann brothers, the paint magnates who lived even higher on the hill, referred to them as ‘Kraay the Beloved Baker.’ Once again, the bread connection!

For Les Tobias’s bar mitzvah, I pitched up in my school (shul?) uniform as there was no way we could afford a suit. Having been a St. Andrews boy before moving to Bethlehem, this was an OK thing to do – presumably with the Saints fees, it was understood there was no money for suits. Must have got a few tongues wagging. Surprised we didn’t start getting food parcels from the Jewish community after that.

Brauer wrote: The travelling rabbi’s old man is my mom’s neighbour in JAFFA – the Pretoria Jewish old age home.

~~~oo0oo~~~

skrik – frighten them; put the fear of G_d into them; see that? I wrote the Jewish god G_d

dorp – village; dusty; not Harrismith

voetsek – bugger off; voetsak’d – sent packing

verraaier – traitor

~~~oo0oo~~~

correspondence followed:

Me: Wrote a little blog post about that book on Bethlehem where they battled to find three wise men.

Brauer: So the shul is a car parts shop? They probably sold the shofar as a much sought-after retro hooter (or horn).

Me: Couldn’t there be a market for a mobile Jewish wedding car – with removable roof and twin shofars, with a floor to dance and smash things on? I have to think of something to make cash post-optometry. Could I be the rabbi, or would I have to use a rent-a-rabbi?

Brauer: Conditional. We’ll let you be the rabbi if you have the snip.

Me: Eish!! It just shrank and retreated to only eleven inches in the shade at the very thought. What the rabbis don’t know is my definition of minor surgery: Minor surgery is Surgery On Someone Else.

I’ll have to stick to driving the mobile wedding car – you could say, ‘being the shofar . . ‘

~~~oo0oo~~~

Here’s a lovely old picture taken inside the Harrismith synagogue!

– must get this to the folks for them to ID the people – old friends –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dec 2020: I learnt today from big sis Barbara that the occasion above was Ivan Katz’s bar mitzvah. He turned 80 this year and has spent most of the year COVID-trapped in New York (state or city, I don’t know) with his daughter. He was matric 1957 in Harrismith. His Dad owned a bakery next door to my gran Annie Bland’s Caltex garage. Barbara found more old Jewish friends and wrote to them – an extract here.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Telecommunicating, Clarens-style

TV, harbinger of kommunisme, arrived in South Africa in 1976. This in spite of the Nationalist Party’s Posts and Telecommunications Minister Albert Hertzog’s determination not to telecommunicate.

Hertzog had vowed that television would come to South Africa over his dead body, denouncing it as ‘a miniature bioscope over which parents would have no control.’ He also argued that ‘imported fillums showing race mixing and advertising would make non-white Africans (or ‘plurals’) dissatisfied with their lot.’ Their God-ordained lot. The new medium was the ‘devil’s own box, for disseminating kommunisme and immorality.’ This, naturally, made people curious. Hetzog was better at marketing than at telecommunications. The influential Dutch Reformed Church, the National Party at prayer, saw the new medium as ‘degenerate and immoral.’ This, naturally, made people curious. The church was better at marketing than at afskrik. No doubt they had to send a few dominees oorsee to check and make sure it was as bad as vey fought. Dominees can be like that. Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was also full of wisdom, comparing television to atomic bombs and poison gas, which‘are modern fings, but that does not mean they are desirable. The goverrinmint has to watch for any dangers to the people, both spiritual and physical.’ That was onse Hennerik, now reduced to a street name.

Very prescient of them all: I mean do we have free speech and human rights now? See! They TOLD you! Not to even mention the scourge of ree-hality TV.

But there was no holding back ve small bioscope. TV came to South Africa irregardless, only . . not to Clarens!

Citizens of Clarens had to listen enviously to Bethlehem se mense when they spoke of staring at the test pattern or watching The World At War. Then came The Dingleys and The Villagers, as well as comedy series Biltong and Potroast’s SA vs British comedians shootout, and variety program The Knicky Knacky Knoo Show. Also The Sweeney in Afrikaans, called Blitspatrollie. Things were now getting Crucial in Clarens! The frustrasie mounted.

Then: A breakthrough! Someone discovered there was TV reception on the top of Mount Horeb which looms above the dorp! Mount Horeb, where Moses got the Ten Commandments, was about to beam down much breaking of the seventh and tenth commandments – the ones about adultery and coveting your neighbour’s wife’s ass. Yes, Mount Horeb is near Clarens, as is Bethlehem and the River Jordan. They wrote a book about it.

What was needed was a ‘repeater.’ A what? A repeater. Say that again . . You get an aerial to catch the signal, then a repeater, then another aerial aimed down at the dorp and voila (or ‘daar’s hy’): you have TV.

Steve Reed, son of hizzonner, the incumbent Lord Mayor of Clarens at that historic time, writes of the ‘many trips up Mount Horeb: At one stage we enlisted the TV expert from the Bethlehem TV shop – Haas Das. Two-way radios were used to speak to the manne down in the dorp, hunched over the test TV set’:

“Hoe lyk die picture nou? – Over”

“Nee man dis net sneeu. – Over”

“En nou? – Over”

“Dis nog steeds net sneeu. – Over”

“Daar’s hy! Wag! Agge nee, weer net sneeu. – Over”

Ens, ens . . en so voorts = etc.

So that was done, and TV arrived in Clarens to groot vreugde and tidings of great joy. The mense didn’t know it at the time, but they had embarked on learning to speak Engels.

tv.jpg

And then it died. Wat de hel gaan aan? Telephone lines buzzed heen en weer. The battery’s flat. What battery? Ja, it has a battery to drive the repeater. The what? The repeater. Wat!? O bliksem. So a roster had to be drawn up for the dorpsmense – the villagers to take turns driving and walking up Mount Horeb to change the battery and bring the flat one down to charge it. Daily. Every day. (Moses se Moses, he only went up Mount Horeb once).

– the summit of Mt Horeb – trying a petrol generator here –
Porters Hella Hella (6)
—   Here’s a different home-made repeater aerial; Same battery-changing chore —  This one at Hella Hella outside Richmond in KZN —

Then there was Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men. Except if men forgot their roster slot. Then there was hell to pay. Later a wind charger was installed so they didn’t have to change the batteries every day.

~~~oo0oo~~~

harbingeranything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign; ek het vir julle gese

kommunisme – communism; a vague concept, undefined, but BAD; don’t ask

fillums – motion pictures

devil’s own box – duiwel se eier doos

afskrik – dissuade; ‘don’t look!’ which made people look

dominees oorsee – I’m guessing they sent preachers overseas to patriotically and dutifully watch porn

vey fought – they thought

goverrinmint – guvmint; Pik Botha discovered the ‘R’ in guvmint, his only achievement as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was actually better at Local Affairs, taking gewillige meisies to farms for frolics around ve braai

gewillige meisies – willing lasses; paid

Bethelehem se mense – Bethlehem’s TV-enabled people

frustrasie – frustration, impotence, FOMO

dorp – village

daar’s hy – there it is, Suzelle; voila; see Jaap’s away you go below

manne – the boys

“Hoe lyk die picture nou? – Over” – What’s the picture look like? Over

“Nee man dis net sneeu – Over” – No man, its just snow – Over

“En nou? – Over” – And now? Over

“Daar’s hy! Wag! Ag, nee, weer net sneeu. – Over” – Shit! Over

Ens ens... – etc etc

groot vreugde – tidings of great joy

Wat de hel gaan aan? – WTF; Whatsa happening?

O bliksem – Oh shit

se Moses – like . . . “that was nothing!”

~~~oo0oo~~~

I wanted to know more about how they did this, so I asked –

and got a reply from Jaap:

Yes this is no secret, in fact we at the SABC / Sentech, encouraged the use of TV repeaters for the smaller communities, and at one stage there were more privately owned “self- help” TV stations than those we ran for the SABC.

The right way to do this was to purchase a transposer, a combined TV receiver and transmitter that will receive a TV signal on one channel, then re-broadcast the signal on another channel. This could be UHF-UHF or VHF-VHF or VHF-UHF. Then you need a receive antenna and transmit antenna. Install on a high structure, such as a grain silo or mountain top. This transposers was in the order of 1-10 Watts output. This then would receive the distant TV signal from the TX station through a front-end amplifier on one channel before feeding into the transposer, and transmitting it on another channel.

The cheap and dirty, crude way was to get hold of a VCR with AV out, a TV tuner with a AV output, or even a modified TV set. The AV output would then be taken to a TV modulator, which you can buy off the shelf, and then tune it to a suitable channel, and then put the RF into a amplifier that could be home-built or even a commercial distribution (set-back amplifier ) connect it to the antenna and away you go. Equipment could be bought from your local TV spares/ equipment dealer, Ellies Electronics, Space TV, or even your local co-op store. Drawback was that only one channel, normally TV3 (SABC3) could be re-broadcasted like this, any other additional channels would have to have identical set-ups.

According to the law, such self-help stations had to be licensed by the SABC, but many of them did not bother to do so. Obviously the home-brewed equipment was very prone to causing interference as the amplifiers they used was not channelized, with no filtering whatsoever.

In all instances the equipment had to be placed so that the clearest possible signal could be received and the maintenance of such repeaters was obviously the responsibility of that community.

Voila! or daar’s hy . . away you go

~~~oo0oo~~~