Maria Margaretha b6c10d10e1 de Wet, SM
|Birthplace:||1834: Gebore op 18 Maart in die huis tans bekend as die Koopmans-De Wet-museum in Kaapstad, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa|
|Managed by:||Norman James Alexander Jamieson|
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About Maria Margaretha b6c10d10e1 de Wet, SM
Koopmans-De Wet, Maria Margaretha, vroueleidster. 1834: Gebore op 18 Maart in die huis tans bekend as die Koopmans-De Wet-museum in Kaapstad. 1864: Getroud op 15 April met Johan Christoffel Koopmans, buitelandse korrespondensieklerk in die hoofposkantoor, Kaapstad, en later Serjeant-at-Arms van die Wetgewende Vergadering. 1880: Haar eggenoot korn te sterwe. 1881: Gaan saam met haar suster na Holland orn Johan Koopmans se familie te besoek; word voorge¬stel aan die hof van koning Willem III. 1884: Gaan op 'n tweede besoek na Europa. 1890: Word lid van die hoofbestuur van die Suid-Afrikaanse Taalbond. 1900: Speel 'n leiersrol onder Kaapse vroue wat in die oorlog met die Republieke simpatiseer; doen baie vir die vroue in die konsentrasiekampe. 1903: Aangemoedig deur 'n kragtige brief van haar, word De Afrikaner Vrouwen Vereniging op Cradock gestig, wat sou aanleiding gee tot die stigting van ander takke; op haar voorstel kry die maandblad De Goede Hoop sy naam. 1906: Oorlede op 2 Augustus.
Afrikaanse Kinder Ensiklopedie Deel XI 1962
(Born: Cape Town, 18.3.1834 – Died: Cape Town, 2.8.1906)Cultural leader, patriotic benefactress and well-known Cape Town hostess. Maria Koopmans-De Wet was the elder daughter of Adv. Johannes de Wet and Adriana Dorothea Horak (1787-1868), granddaughter of Martin Melck.
Her father, a well-known Cape advocate, was a member of the Cape legislative council for fifteen years, after obtaining doctorates at Leiden in both Roman and French law. In Cape Town he played an active part in public affairs such as the struggle for the freedom of the press and the establishment of the South African college. He bestowed the greatest care on the education of his two daughters in his home, 23 Strand street, , where he himself had grown up and where they, too, were to live all their lives. De Wet, Margaretha Koopmans
De Wet, Margaretha Koopmans
Miss de Wet attended the Rev. Johannes Spyker’s school, where she was taught for four years through the medium of Dutch; then she was taught at home until her thirteenth year, when, to learn English, she attended Mrs Midgley’s school for about six months. Subsequently she and her sister received regular instruction in German and French; later she studied Italian and, many years later, translated into Dutch an article on Paul Kruger in an Italian newspaper. Music, painting and needlework, accomplishments which it was fashionable to include in a young lady’s education, also received her attention.
The most important event during her youth was the anti-convict agitation of 1849, the spontaneous resistance to the British government’s decision to use the Cape as a penal settlement for a shipload of convicts who were to be set free when they had served their sentences. From an early age she followed the leading role played by her father in public affairs, including his share in the movement to obtain a parliamentary constitution for the Cape Colony, for his home was the centre for innumerable meetings. She also followed with avid interest the fate of the Voortrekkers and the recognition of the independence of the Transvaal Boers in 1852, and that of the Orange Free State in 1854. Sympathy with these events developed a consciousness of her nationality in a young girl of strong personality, and she gradually became well known for her fervent patriotism.
On 15.4.1864 she married Johan Christoffel Koopmans, a Hollander by birth and originally an officer of the German legion which, under the command of Baron Richard von Stutterheim, was stationed on the eastern border of the colony. Because Koopmans could speak six European languages, the governor, Sir George Grey, offered him a position as a foreign correspondence clerk in the general post office in Cape Town, and the young couple lived happily together in Wale street. When Koopman’s post was abolished as an economy measure in 1867, they returned to her parents’ home. After eight months her husband was appointed serjeant-atarms to the Cape legislative assembly.
Shortly after this her mother died, and, on 15.6.1875, her father. Four years later her beloved husband died and she never really recovered from this loss; to the end of her life she wore mourning. She and her sister continued living in their parents’ home in Strand street and, although not wealthy, they were able to maintain their social position. In 1881 they toured several countries in Europe and met members of her late husband’s family. This journey, during which she was received in exclusive circles, including the court of King William III of Holland, gave her a new zest for life, for when they returned to Cape Town the two sisters were far less inclined to keep to themselves. After a second visit to Europe it became clear to them that they should end their secluded existence and, as of old, receive guests in their home; gradually the house became known as the ‘Strand street salon’ because of the charm and stimulating intellect of its hostess. Here she collected objets d’art and kept alive Cape-Dutch traditions in a stately manner; she received strangers, particularly from England, to prove that hospitality was an inherent characteristic of her people. Culturally she encouraged young people, both Afrikander and English, to organize concerts of chamber music at her home.
At her house she was continually in touch with prominent Cape personalities; Sir John Truter, chief justice of the colony, for example, had married her father’s sister. In political circles she knew statesmen such as Sir Bartle Frere and C. J. Rhodes, while J. H. Hofmeyr was a personal friend, as were four Boer presidents, J. H. Brand, F. W. Reitz, S. J. P. Kruger and M. T. Steyn, and, later, F. S. Malan, who became her biographer. Her home was in time referred to as the lobby of the Afrikander Bond. She also worked for the establishment of the Afrikaanse Christelike Vrouevereniging (A.C.V.V.), but withdrew her support because her suggestion that all Christian women, including Catholic women, should co-operate was not accepted. Her point of view indicates her magnanimity: ‘Christianity does not exclude, but unites. However much we may be divided by dogmas or human interpretations, in the Bible we are again united’.
She also advocated the preservation of national treasures; she encouraged the planting of trees, the protection of indigenous flora, and the preservation of antiques and historical documents. In 1886, when the Castle of Good Hope was threatened with demolition and, in 1888, with disfigurement, she protested. Her greatest interest remained the advancement of the Dutch language which, after being neglected in public life for almost fifty years, was, in 1882, with English permitted in parliamentary debates.
In 1883 she offered a book as a prize for proficiency in Dutch at the South African college. When the Zuid-Afrikaansche Taalbond was established in 1890 she became a member of its executive committee. Before the Taalmonument was unveiled at Burgersdorp in 1893 she embroidered on a flag the words Lang leve onze taal (‘Long live our language’), and presented it and a gold medal with the inscription De Hollandsche Taal in Zuid-Afrika 1806 – 1893. Ik worstel maar bezwijk niet (‘The Dutch language in South Africa. I struggle, but do not perish’). In 1903 she was one of the founders of the monthly magazine De Goede Hoop, the name being her idea. She was also interested in education. Together with her sister she established the De Wet fund for the training of clergy, another fund for the education of two godsons, and yet another for the education of young girls, seeing to it that they could concentrate on acquiring a thorough knowledge of Dutch. She also provided the De Wet endowments from which the Victoria college, Stellenbosch, and the South African college, Cape Town, were to benefit.
Her greatest activity was the self-imposed task of assisting the two Boer republics, initially by drawing up a peace petition of 16,750 signatures for submission to Queen Victoria with the request that the disputes between Britain and the Transvaal should be peacefully settled. In 1900 two large women’s meetings protested against the burning of Boer homes and other destruction during the Second Anglo-Boer War. She also organized the signing of petitions requesting that Boer prisoners of war should not be deported, but was unsuccessful. Up to 1904 more than 2,000 cases of goods were received from all quarters, including overseas countries, for prisoners of war and for women in the concentration camps. She stored all these cases in her drawing-room, opened them and sent the contents to the camps in which they were needed. She kept an account of all money received, and dealt with all the correspondence connected with this work. At this time her freedom of movement was restricted, but the order was later cancelled.
During her later years her health gradually declined. On 4.8.1906 Prof. Adriaan Moorrees conducted her funeral service at her home and she was buried next to her husband and her parents at the Wynberg cemetery.
After the death of her sister, Margaretha, in 1911, the historic house in Strand street, together with most of its precious antiques, was bought with contributions from the public and with government assistance. In 1913 the South African museum, Cape Town, was authorized to administer it as a museum. It was proclaimed an historic monument in 1940.