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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


VAN DER MERWE, Ria. Moulding volksmoeders or volks enemies? Female students at the University of Pretoria, 1920-1970. Historia [online]. 2011, vol.56, n.1, pp.77-100. ISSN 2309-8392.

One of the key elements that Afrikaner nationalist ideologues have used over the last two centuries as a mobilising force is a stylised version of ideal Afrikaner womanhood. The volksmoeder became the prototype for ordinary women to follow. In a time of immense turmoil and change that saw an increasing number of poor whites and the so-called degeneration of the Afrikaner, women had to be both the centre point of the household and the primary unifying force to elevate the Afrikaner community. This article considers the genesis of the concept volksmoeder and various reflections on the concept. It looks at the tertiary education of women, specifically at the University of Pretoria. The academic disciplines developed to enable Afrikaner daughters to conform to the nationalist ideal of the volksmoeder are discussed, as well as other mechanisms that were put in place by the university authorities to safeguard the female students' good reputation. The article also considers the causes and implications of Afrikaner women's move away from this designated role and place and questions whether the shedding of their traditional image undermined Afrikaner nationalist ideals.

Keywords : volksmoeder; Afrikaner nationalism; Transvaal University College; University of Pretoria; "Voortrekker Universiteit"; Suid-Afrikaanse Vroue Federasie (SAVF); Department of Social Work; Domestic Science; Nursing; university residences; gender.

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