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Title:Gandhi's decisive South African 1913 campaign: a personal perspective from the letters of Betty Molteno
Authors:Corder, Catherine
Plaut, MartinISNI
Periodical:South African Historical Journal (ISSN 1726-1686)
Geographic term:South Africa
personal narratives (form)
About persons:Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)ISNI
Elizabeth Maria Molteno (1852-1927)
Abstract:The account of Mohandas Gandhi's final battle with the South African government in late 1913 and early 1914 is widely known. This article juxtaposes this narrative with a personal perspective, drawing on the involvement of Betty Molteno, eldest child of the first Prime Minister of the Cape. She was present during critical incidents in those months. Molteno wrote daily to her life-partner, Alice Greene, and their correspondence contains many illuminating insights into the dramatic events and the personalities of those involved. Molteno's letters attest to an ongoing warm relationship between members of the Phoenix and Ohlange communities and provide a first-hand account of the complexities inherent in the relationship between Gandhi and his near neighbour John Dube, first President of the African National Congress. This indicates that a commonly-accepted view that a hostile relationship existed between them needs to be reviewed. In addition, the correspondence reveals the background to Emily Hobhouse's crucial intervention, on Gandhi's behalf, in the stalled negotiations with General Jan Smuts. Finally, the letters serve to highlight the role played by a network of influential yet disenfranchised white women, through their access to the political elites of the nascent state, in the resolution of Gandhi's decisive South African confrontation. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]