Sarah Heckford


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A Lady Trader in the Transvaal presents the South African adventures of Sarah Heckford, a once famous but now forgotten Anglo-Irish gentlewoman. After treking to the Transvaal in 1878, this intrepid woman served as governess, doctor, builder, nurse, and farmer. When her farm failed, she broke through the barriers of gender and class to make her fortune as a smous or peddler —trading with the Africans and Afrikaners of the remote bush-veldt. Caught up in the Anglo-Boer War of 1879–1880, she survived the hundred-day siege of Pretoria only to find the British dishonored and herself financially ruined.



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Published 03 October 2008
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EAN13 9781602350847
Language English
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S a r a h h e c k f o r d Sarah heckford
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A LAdyTrAderinTheTrAnsvAAL
ediTedbyCAroLeG. siLver
Writing Travel Series Editor, Jeanne Moskal
Writing Travel Series Editor, Jeanne Moskal
The series publishes manuscripts related to the new field of travel stud ies, including works of original travel writing; editions of outofprint travel books or previously unpublished travel memoirs; English trans lations of important travel books in other languages; theoretical and historical treatments of ways in which travel and travel writing engage such questions as religion, nationalism/cosmopolitanism, and empire; gender and sexuality; race, ethnicity, and immigration; and the history of the book, print culture, and translation; biographies of significant travelers or groups of travelers (including but not limited to pilgrims, missionaries, anthropologists, tourists, explorers, immigrants); critical studies of the works of significant travelers or groups of travelers; and pedagogy of travel and travel literature and its place in curricula.
Other Books in the Series
Vienna Voices: A Traveler Listens to the City of Dreams,Jill Knight Weinberger Eating Europe: A MetaNonfiction Love Story, Jon Volkmer
Sarah Heckford
A Lady Trader in the Transvaal
Edited by Carole G. Silver
Parlor Press West Lafayette, Indiana
Parlor Press LLC, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906
© 2008 by Parlor Press All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America
S A N: 2 5 4  8 8 7 9
 Library of Congress CataloginginPublication Data
Heckford, Sarah, 18391903. Sarah Heckford : a lady trader in the Transvaal / edited by Carole G. Silver.  p. cm.  (Writing travel) Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 9781602350823 (pbk. : alk. paper)  ISBN 978160235083 0 (hardcover : alk. paper)  ISBN 9781602350847 (adobe ebook) 1. Transvaal (South Africa)Description and travel. 2. Heckford, Sarah, 18391903Travel. I. Silver, Carole G. II. Title. DT2310.H43 2008 916.8204’45092dc22 [B]  2008038417
Cover design by David Blakesley. Printed on acidfree paper.
Parlor Press, LLC is an independent publisher of scholarly and trade titles in print and multimedia formats. This book is available in paper, cloth and Adobe eBook formats from Parlor Press on the World Wide Web at or through online and brickandmortar bookstores. For submission information or to find out about Parlor Press publications, write to Parlor Press, 816 Robinson St., West Lafayette, Indiana, 47906, or email
Acknowledgmentsvii Introductionix Carole G. Silver Chronology of Sarah Heckford (1839–1903)lxvii Chapter 13 Chapter 28 Chapter 312 Chapter 421 Chapter 528 Chapter 637 Chapter 742 Chapter 845 Chapter 949 Chapter 1059 Chapter 1168 Chapter 1275 Chapter 1379 Chapter 1483 Chapter 1588 Chapter 1696 Chapter 17105 Chapter 18109 Chapter 19114 Chapter 20118 Chapter 21128 Chapter 22134 Chapter 23141
Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Notes About the Editor
152 158 169 175 180 191 200 217 234 241 247
Figure 1. Photograph of Sarah Heckford in the early 1870s.
Figure 2. Nathaniel Heckford, from a portrait presented to the East London Hospital.
Figure 3. “Festival at the East London Hospital for Children on New Year’s Eve.”
Figure 4. “Crossing a Drift in Natal.” Thomas Baines (c.1870).
Figure 5. “Boer Commandoes.” An unsigned, unidentified illustration of the techniques utilized by the Afrikaner forces during the first South African War.
Figure 6. Sarah Heckford shortly before her death, drawn by her friend, Lady Sarah Nicholson.
Creating a new edition of Sarah Heckford’s provocative and unusual travel book would have been impossible without the help of a number of institutions and individuals. First, I am truly grateful to the excellent staff of the Cape Town Campus of the South African National Library and for the use of its facilities. Here, with the invaluable assistance of reference librarians Najwa Hendrickse, Zaidah Sirkhotte, and Petrie Le Roux and Special Collections librarian Melanie Geustyn, I was able to do most of my research on Heckford and her world. I am also indebted to the South African National Gallery in Cape Town, both for the help given to me by curator Hayden Proud and for permission to use material in its collection. The British Library was, as usual, an extraordinary resource and I am particularly indebted to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh—holders of what appears to be the sole surviving copy of Heckford’s book onChrist and Communismfor welcoming me and permitting me to use it. The New York Public Library and the libraries of my own institution, Yeshiva University, have been extremely helpful and resourceful. In addition, I must thank Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University and its remarkable Dean, Karen Bacon, for the technical, financial and intellectual sup port they have provided throughout this project. My appreciation and thanks must also go to a number of people. My summer research assistant and former student, Rebecca Rosenberg, was largely responsible for the chronology of Heckford’s life and for many of the notes toLady Trader.Working with her was a delightful experience. Vivien Allen, Heckford’s biographer, whose volume,Lady Trader: A Biography of Mrs. Sarah Heckford, is soon to be republished, has been a major resource, graciously providing permissions and shar ing information throughout this project. Friends and colleagues on two continents have been helpful readers, adding comments and mak ing suggestions. I am especially grateful to Ellen Schrecker, Frinde Maher, Jill Landimore, and Norman Levy.
Lastly, I wish to thank the editors and staff of Parlor Press for their patient and helpful assistance in the production of this book. I am grateful to Jeanne Moskal for including it in the Writing Travel series and especially to David Blakesley, Publisher, for making this edition possible.
Figure 1. Photograph of Sarah Heckford in the early 1870s. Reprinted with the kind permission of Vivien Allen, author ofSarah Heckford: Lady Trader. Courtesy of the National Library of South Africa.
Carole G. Silver
Three days after Sarah Heckford’s death on 18 April 1903, a corre spondent for theTimesof London announced: “The news [. . .] comes as a terrible shock to all who knew her; and even those who know a tenth of her adventures and achievements will feel that her country is much the poorer for her loss. It is not an extravagance, indeed, to describe her as one of the most extraordinary women to whom the British nation has given birth” (“Obituary” 8). The lengthy and eu logistic obituary concludes by saying, “her life will remain an inspira tion to noble, disinterested, and patriotic endeavour; and her country cannot afford to let it pass into oblivion” (9). Yet Heckford and her life have been almost entirely forgotten, and, in republishing her remark able book, my intention is to reinscribe her name in the annals of South African and British History. Born in Dublin on 30 June 1839, Sarah Maud Goff, as she was then known, was the youngest of the three daughters of William Goff, formerly governor of the bank of Ireland and descendent of one of Oli 1 ver Cromwell’s generals. Her mother was Mary Clibborn, William’s cousin as well as his wife. In 1842 Goff and his family left Ireland for the Continent, settling in Dresden. Mary Goff died in 1845, followed soon after by her oldest daughter, Jane. Mary’s sister, Abigail Clibborn became surrogate mother to the surviving girls, Annie and Sarah. Rich enough to enjoy living on and touring the Continent, the Goffs spent two years in Switzerland and then in 1848 moved to Paris—where they were inadvertently caught in the 1848 French revolution. Return ing to London, the family rented rooms in Eaton Square, perhaps to be close to William’s bachelor brother Robert, whom William appointed as his daughters’ guardian. Shortly after Sarah’s ninth birthday, Wil liam killed himself. At roughly the same time, Sarah contracted tuber