Bertha Goudvis

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(1876-1966) Hotelier, journalist, playwright and novelist. (The first name is sometimes wrongly written Berthe Goudvis in some sources)


Born Bertha Cinamon in Barrow-in-Furness in England in 1876 and came to South Africa with her family in 1981, at the age of five. 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. 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. 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. 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.


Goudvis, 2011

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

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