Bertha Goudvis

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Bertha Goudvis (1876-1966) Hotelier, journalist, playwright and novelist.

(The first name is sometimes wrongly written Berthe Goudvis in some sources)


The daughter of Jacob and Victoria Cinamon, Bertha Cinamon was born in Barrow-in-Furness in England on 6th April, 1876, and came to South Africa with her family at the age of five in 1881. She spent her youth trekking by ox-wagon across the country from one small mining town to another. Lived and worked in South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)and Mozambique as a hotelier and journalist. She married Lucas Samuel Goudvis in 1896. They had two sons (one of whom was killed in a motor accident) and a daughter. Living and working among both English and Afrikaans communities, but belonging to neither because she was Jewish, Bertha was in a unique position to record early colonial attitudes. She was in touch with many of the people who feature in South Africa’s history books, including Rhodes, Lobengula, Kruger and Louis Botha.

As journalist she was, amongst others, a correspondent for The Natal Mercury and a journalist for Johannesburg’s The Star. Published a bestselling novel, Little Eden in 1949 and a collection of her short stories The Mistress of Mooiplaas in 1956.

She died on the 3rd September, 1966

In 2011 her autobiography (South African Odyssey, The autobiography of Bertha Goudvis) was published by Picador, (Pan Macmillan, SA), edited by Marcia Leveson.

Contribution to South African theatre

Wrote a number of one-act plays, including the extremely popular A Husband for Rachel (first performed 1917) and The Way the Money Goes. They first appeared (with The Sergeant-in-Charge and Patriots) in the collection The Way the Money Goes and other plays (1925) and were both widely published afterwards. The Aliens followed, published 1936, which won second prize in an international competition organised by the Jewish Drama League in London. Also wrote the libretto for a musical, Sunshine Land (1929). In the 1970’s the SABC also broadcast a TV version of A Husband for Rachel.


South African Jewry 1965. Edited by Leon Feldberg.

Goudvis, 2011

Business Day Live August 06 2012, 13:08[1]

Go to ESAT Bibliography

Return to

Return to ESAT Personalities G

Return to South African Theatre Personalities

Return to The ESAT Entries

Return to Main Page