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The Olive Schreiner Letters Project

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OSLP awarded an outstanding evaluation by ESRC, February 2014
The Olive Schreiner Letters Project

To quote from this page, please reference it as 'Olive Schreiner Letters Project - Home Page' www.oliveschreinerletters.ed.ac.uk/index.html and the paragraph number.

1.1 The Olive Schreiner Letters Project is funded by the ESRC. It will transcribe, analyse and publish the complete extant Olive Schreiner letters presently in archival locations world-wide. Through this, it will also contribute theoretically and methodologically to the use of letters and other epistolary materials in social science and humanities research.

1.2 The feminist and socialist writer and social theorist Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) was one of the most important – and radical  social commentators of her day. Her published writings include novels (The Story of An African Farm, Undine, From Man to Man), allegories (Dreams, Dream Life and Real Life, Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland), social theory (The Political Situation, Closer Union, Woman and Labour).

1.3 Around 4800 Schreiner letters are extant, with most never having been previously published or discussed. They are an unparalleled source for exploring the unfolding thinking of one of the great feminist theorists and key New Woman writers. They are also a rich resource around which to formulate methodological and theoretical means of analysing a large-scale epistolary dataset.
1.4 Schreiner’s developing analysis and social theorising in her letters includes such topics as colonialism under transition, metropolitan feminism and socialism, prostitution and its analysis, changing understandings of ‘race’ and capital, imperialism 'on the ground' in southern Africa, the South African War and its concentration camps and women’s relief organisations, international perspectives on women's franchise campaigns, labour issues, international feminist networks, pacifism and war economies, and political and economic changes in South Africa post WW1.

This website is no longer updated as the OSLP project ran from 2008 to 2012.

All extant Olive Schreiner letters, team publications and other materials will be found at:

    Olive Schreiner Letters Online

The project's final ESRC report is available here.


**Access more than 4800 extant letters written by Olive Schreiner at Olive Schreiner Letters Online**

Home page

Schreiner's Letters - Project Overview

What we do...our working process detailed

Team Members

Consultant & Advisory Board

Team Publications 

OS Publications

Working Papers - Letters, Letterness & Epistolary Networks 




April 2014: Votes for the best Olive Schreiner letter now counted! And the Winner is...

February 2014:
We are delighted to announce that the ESRC has awarded the Olive Schreiner Letters Project an OUTSTANDING evaluation. Further information is available here!

February 2014: Whites Writing Whiteness project update.
The Whites Writing Whiteness website has received a spring-clean, a new blog post on 'Thinking with Norbert Elias, about race…' is available, and the site now hosts a brand new feature - a Cabinet of Curiosities! Read on...

January 2014: Vote for the best Olive Schreiner letter! closing date 31 March 2014
The prize is an Unwin edition of Schreiner's Dreams, first published in 1890. We (Liz Stanley & Andrea Salter) as the editors of the Schreiner letters have identified a 'top ten' to choose from. The nominated letters, with live links to them, are available here. We hope you enjoy reading them!

July 2013:
Liz Stanley's Imperialism, Labour and the New Woman: Olive Schreiner's Social Theory (Durham, UK: sociologypress, 2002) is now available as a PDF download here. It includes an extensive new Preface which reflects on the main themes of the book from the perspective of 2013 following work on the Olive Schreiner Letters Project.

June 2013: We are very pleased to announce that a new edited collection, on Documents of Life Revisited, has been published, with several chapters drawing on work by the Schreiner Letters Project and the Olive Schreiner Letters Online.

Please visit: http://www.ashgate.com/isbn/9781409442899 for more information.

Taking off from Ken Plummer’s work in the original Documents of Life, the contents explore a range of different kinds of life documents and delineate a critical humanist methodology for researching and writing about these - letters, memoirs, ethnographic fieldnotes, photographs, interviews and online sources all feature. Edited by Liz Stanley, University of Edinburgh, there are 14 chapters which provide research-based discussions of exciting new ways of thinking about and analysing documents of life. A flyer including a Table of Contents and 20% off the book’s price is available 
here, while the Ashgate website also features a price reduction for web orders.

‘Documents of life have been acknowledged as major research resources for a century and more. But they do not always receive the critical attention they deserve. As Liz Stanley and her authors demonstrate here, we need to revisit the humanist tradition that treats lives, narratives and biographies as prime topics of analysis and as sources of insight in the social sciences.’
Paul Atkinson, Cardiff University, UK

‘“Truth is beauty”, Ken Plummer writes in his contribution to this critical volume of essays that respond to his pathbreaking work Documents of Life. This is indeed a beautiful book, wherein truth unfolds through different stories, artfully brought together by Liz Stanley. A book about the thick autonomy and the unbearable lightness of stories entangled in the web of human relations.’
Maria Tamboukou, University of East London, UK


News from the
Whites Writing Whiteness project:

April 2013:
A Powerpoint Presentation about the project's methodological beginnings is now available: Researching social change & whiteness in South Africa 1770s-1970s, with commentary by Liz Stanley

Futher information about Liz Stanley's three-year ESRC Professorial Research Fellowship, which is concerned with researching ‘Whites Writing Whiteness: Letters, Domestic Figurations and Representations of Whiteness in South Africa 1770s-1970s, is available at:

Team members aim to blog regularly about project-related activities and provide reflections on various aspects of the WWW project. See our latest blog posts here: WWW Blog


Schreiner Letters Go Live
 January 2012

Fully searchable transcriptions of Schreiner's c4800 extant letters plus an editorial apparatus around these are now accessible via www.oliveschreiner.org
March 2013 UPDATE
Website Usage Statistics Available!
Would you like to know how the Olive Schreiner Letters Project website and the Olive Schreiner Letters Online website have been used since they were launched? Google Analytics Data Reports are now available via the links below:
- OSLP website report (Dec 2008 Mar 2013)
- OSLO website report (Jan 2012 Mar 2013)

June 2012 UPDATE

Two features of the Olive Schreiner Letters Online are now available - find out more here!

April 2012 UPDATE
Would you like to know more about Olive Schreiner Letters Online? A slide show about producing the website & ideas for potential research using the letters can now be accessed here.

How to join the Mailing List:
Would you like to hear more about 'lives and events' from across the globe? Please subscribe to our **Lives & Letters mailing list** by emailing oliveschreiner@yahoo.co.uk. Alternatively, you can self-subscribe to the mailing list by sending a blank email to sympa@mlist.is.ed.ac.uk with the following in the subject: sub lives-and-letters
Schreiner News from...

A Budget of Schreiner Letters from July 1913
During July 1913, Olive Schreiner wrote nine letters, published as part of the Olive Schreiner Letters Online (www.oliveschreiner.org). They are important letters, some of them especially so. Although written over a short period of time, and two of them the same day, they are all tailored for their particular addressee and feel and read differently. Please click the link above to access.

Woman and Labour: Centenary Special
Please click the link above to access a set of letters around the publication of Schreiner’s influential Woman and Labour (1911).

News from the 1870s: Schreiner working as a governess on Boer farms, writing to a family member and a possible friend

November 1880: An epiphany - England on the Horizon & the death of Hamilton Hope

October 1911: Schreiner on women’s suffrage and Aletta Jacob’s visit

September 1911: Schreiner on women's suffrage

August 1911: Schreiner on Will Schreiner not speaking at the Races Congress & on ‘the dreadful suffragette Con seen at close quarters’ 

July 1911: Schreiner on Will Schreiner & the Races Congress    

June 1911: Schreiner on the ‘black peril’ investigations

May 1911: Schreiner on the South African Women's Enfranchisement League & 'race'

April 1911: Schreiner on 'oligarchic white men'

Recent Project News:

October 2014:
April 2014:

February 2014:
May 2013:

March 2013:

February 2013:

June 2012:
Welcome to another Lives & Letters Mailing - two new features of the Olive Schreiner Letters Online are announced!

March 2012:

Dec 2011:
Dec 2011:
Click here to access the latest Centre for NABS mailing, which contains information about the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) and the CNR/RAW Symposium, at which Liz Stanley will be in the RAW Dialogue Chair, to be held at the British Library, London, 2 March 2012.

Sept 2011:
We have posted a set of letters around the publication of Schreiner’s influential Woman and Labour (1911) to commemorate its Centenary. Woman and Labour was described by Vera Brittain as the ‘bible of the women’s movement’ and it remained a key feminist text through to the 1960s. In it, Schreiner’s analysis of value and social labour anticipated recent feminist rethinking, with her letters providing remarkable insight into the completion, publication and reception of the book. There are many more such comments in the complete letters, which can be accessed when the Olive Schreiner Letters Online goes live in January 2012.
Project News Archive:
Advance information about the 'Lives & Letters' Mailing List.
Liz Stanley is giving the keynote address at the 'Gender and the politics of auto/biographical memory: new directions' conference, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Program L'homme congress, 10 June 2011. The title of her address is 'Against biographical closure: Olive Schreiner, A Returned South African, her letters, her essays, her fiction, her politics, her life'.
A NEW Working Paper on different aspects of the research being carried out by Olive Schreiner Letters Project members has just been published. Access it here!
Two papers, dealing with different aspects of Olive Schreiner's letters and life, are to be given at the NABS one-day conference on 'The Documents of Life Revisited', to be held at the University of Edinburgh on Friday 20 May, by Helen Dampier and Andrea Salter. Abstracts available!

The Documents of Life Revisited!
NABS Seminar, Edinburgh, 20 May 2011
Programme and Abstracts available here!
Helen Dampier & Liz Stanley have been invited to participate in the international workshop on Gender Histories Across Epistemologies organised by Mary Jo Maynes and Donna Gabaccia at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in mid April. Their paper is entitled ‘I just express my views & leave them to work’: Using Olive Schreiner’s letters to re-think the historiography of Cape politics 1899-1910’. A draft version will be posted on the OSLP website with comment invited, nearer the date of the Workshop.
The Letters of Alice Greene, teacher, critic of the South African War, & letter-writer extraordinary (1858-1920) Two books of  interest to historians and sociologists (ed. John Barham)
Olive Schreiner Letters Project
download publications!
28/04/10post –
NABS/SCDS: Exploring Immigrant Personal Correspondence Workshop 14/05/10
26/01/10post – 
Edinburgh Seminar on Migrant and Diaspora Narratives & Life Writings 26/03/10
12/12/09post –
Working Papers Launch
01/11/09post – 
Mellon Fellowship for Project PI
To contact the OSLP:

Olive Schreiner Letters Project
School of Social & Political Science
Chrystal Macmillan Building
15a George Square
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh EH8 9LD, UK.
© Copyright of the Olive Schreiner Letters Project and the ESRC, 2008. All rights reserved. Photograph of Olive Schreiner courtesy of the National Library of South Africa. INIL 3181 1895. These pages were designed, built and are maintained by Andrea Salter; last updated March 2015. Contact the OSLP

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336.

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