n Journal for Contemporary History - "Kan die vrou haar volk dien deur haar huis?" : Afrikanerpolitiek en vrou in die Ossewa-Brandwag, 1942 tot 1954




The "Ossewa-Brandwag" (OB or Oxwagon Sentinel) was a mass-movement of Afrikaners following a non-party political strategy in order to gain power in a white dominated South Africa. The organisation, which gained its highest support during World War II, was openly anti-British, pro-German and followed a National-Socialist agenda together with strong undercurrents of Afrikaner Christian (Calvinist) Nationalism. Despite the movement's explicit stance against party politics, it inevitably transgressed these boundaries and came to blows with the upcoming "Herenigde Nasionale Party" (HNP) leading to a bitter fight which deepened the rift in Afrikanerdom. Although previous histories of the OB focused mainly on the battle between the two protagonists of the saga, namely Commandant General (CG) JFJ van Rensburg of the OB and Dr DF Malan of the HNP, OB women also took part in the political discourse of the 1940s. This article examines how women of the Ossewa-Brandwag interpreted their own political position in the movement and how they regarded their place in the OB itself and in broader South African and Afrikaner politics. The exercise of female power in a patriarchal society is extremely constrained and therefore OB women had to manoeuvre themselves within the confines of the dominant gender ideology, articulated in the so-called "volksmoeder (mother of the nation) discourse". The aim of this article is to show how women in the OB bought into the normative limitations and boundaries of conventional womanhood and even legitimized and defended their subservient position. An emphasis is also placed on how women interpreted the confines of the dominant gender ideology.


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