The British Empire

Talk on ‘Heroines of the Boer War’

The Boer War has been referred to as the' White Man's War'. It was however neither a war for just whites or a war for just men. Most histories of war ignore the role women play for they often play a crucial role in supporting their men folk or as in the Second World War played an undersung role in active combat. This was certainly the case in the Boer War. Women played an important role in enabling their men to fight and even fought themselves. They were also active in the campaign opposing the war refusing to accept the established narrative of what the war was all about.

In this talk we look at the role played by three very different women. Emily Hobhouse was instrumental in making known to the British public the existence of the concentration camps and the terrible conditions within them. They was able to persuade many politicians to support her in her campaigns to bring the war to a close. She shared the stage with Lloyd George and was fully supported by the Liberal leader Campbell-Bannerman. Johanna Ulys was living in the Free State when war broke out. Her brothers joined Boer commandoes but Johanna remained behind on the family farm. When the family tried to flee the British she was arrested and put into a concentration camp. She managed to escape and joined her brothers as a commando. lady Sarah Wilson was  the youngest daughter   of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. She married Captain Gordon Wilson who in the course of a holiday with Sarah in Rhodesia met Colonel Baden Powell. Wilson decided to join Baden Powell's irregular force as an aide de camp. Baden-Powell's force was to guard the Rhodesian border and so the Wilsons were in Mafeking when the Boer War began. Sarah was instrumental in maintaining morale during the Mafeking siege and spent time as a spy for the British sending reports on Boer positions and numbers.

Find out about the exploits of these three women and what became of them.

For more information on the Boer War, click here

Emily Hobhouse

Lady Sarah Wilson