From fund-raising to Freedom Day: the nature of women’s general activities in the Ossewa-Brandwag, 1939-1943.
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The Ossewa-Brandwag (OB) was a mass-movement that originated as a result of the euphoria created by the 1938 Centenary Celebrations of the Great Trek in South Africa. With far-reaching and very ambitious aims the OB was in essence a multi-layered organisation that had an impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afrikaners. It existed for more than ten years, from 1939 to 1954. Despite the evident Afrikaner nationalist and republican ideals for which the movement stood, the OB was also swept by the tide of the ideological “zeitgeist” between the two World Wars. It was outspokenly National-Socialist, anti-British and with the outbreak of the Second World War it openly sided with Germany and was involved in several attempts to sabotage South Africa’s participation in the war. Despite these more radical aspects, the OB also had a cultural and social side in which most of its members participated – including women. Until recently the role of women in the OB has not been dealt with in “any” detailed way. Women formed a dynamic, vibrant and outspoken group in the OB that not only participated in the cultural and social aspects of the movement, but also the more violent resistance towards the government’s pro-British sentiments. This article focuses on the nature of women’s more general activities in the OB during the movement’s early years from 1939 to 1943. These “general” activities include women’s agency in the cultural, social and financial spheres of the OB as well as their indispensable role as organisers. As mainly a descriptive historical study, this article aims to introduce readers to the women of the OB, whose role in the movement has been shamefully neglected in South African historiography.
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