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by Jeanius

Calvinism and South African women: Christina Landman 2

February 28, 2013 in Gender Violence, South Africa, uncategorized

Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae, October 2009, 35(2), 89-102

Calvinism and South African women: Christina Landman

a short historical overview    Research Institute for Theology and Religion

University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

Calvinism and South African women: a short historical overview  – page3

This article argues that “lay” Calvinism – as it was received and eventually practised locally – rested on three apparently conflicting pillars.One is the notion that sin is something that the believer must take personal responsibility for. Two is that the soul is the site of personal connection with God. And three – in apparent contradiction – is that salvation is predestined.

While the laity left the issue of predestination undisputed, they adhere specifically to the practical demands of keeping the soul unblemished which,as we all know, incorporated strict rules for women as far as status, behaviour and dress code were concerned.

Krotoa was 10 years old when the Van Riebeecks came to the Cape. Within two years she became an interpreter and cultural broker to Jan van Riebeeck, and wore Dutch clothes. Furthermore, she was prepared for baptism, which only happened a week before the Van Riebeecks left the Cape in 1662.

How did Krotoa receive the lay form of sin-soul-salvation Calvinism?

As she herself had not written down anything, we are left to speculation based on our deductions from Jan Van Riebeeck’s Journal that she led a double life which, eventually, led to her mental deterioration.

Krotoa probably would have had no problem in identifying with a fatherly, creator God, a Satan and a resurrected One, since these were present in the Khoekhoe pantheon in the forms of the great Tsui//Goab, the evil//Gaunab and Heitsi Eibib who was resurrected daily (Shapera 1930; 1960). However, for Krotoa sin was not personal guilt and responsibility, but a betrayal of the clan’s cultural wholeness. Soul was a concept foreign to the local Khoekhoe, who made no distinction between body and soul.

To be a body, for Krotoa, meant engaging in communal dancing and celebration. And salvation was not the soul predestined for eternal life, but the body as a site of initiation. When she was 14, Krotoa requested leave of absence to visit her sister’s kraal, where she underwent initiation (Landman 1998:8–14). She returned to her Dutch dress code, however, and was baptised six years later.

Jan van Riebeeck’s successor, Zacharias Wagenaer, despised Krotoa. Krotoa had now lost the confidence of the Khoekhoe because of her Christian baptism and was therefore no longer functional to the Dutch. She married a white man, the Danish surgeon Pieter van Meerhoff, in 1665. This did not please Wagenaer, who was embarrassed that a marriage between people of different classes and races took on a Christian form. He sent Van Meerhoff off to supervise Robben Island which was then already a prison. The couple stayed on Robben Island for three years with their three children, Pieternella,

Salomon and Jacobus. Physically removed from her Khoekhoe family and without Dutch employment, Krotoa started drinking heavily. When her husband died on a trip to Mauritius, she lost control of herself and was brought to the mainland where she was given a cottage. Here she started partying recklessly with some dubious characters and neglected her children.

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This behaviour was an embarrassment to both her Khoekhoe heritage and her Christian faith. Her children were taken away from her and she was sent back to Robben Island as a prisoner where she died on 29 July 1674 at the age of 32. In his diary Wagenaer expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that she was given a Christian burial.

With such an ambivalent introduction of Calvinism into female piety, one should be surprised that there was even a second generation of women converts locally. For this, however, the first missionaries should receive the credit.George Schmidt, Vehettge Tikkuie and the sin-soul-salvation model The men who came to South Africa as missionaries suffered for their faith in their home countries. George Schmidt (1709–1785) was no exception.

He was incarcerated for his faith in Moravia, found a spiritual home with the Moravian Brothers at Herrnhut in Germany, and came to South Africa as a missionary in 1737. His first convert was the Khoekhoe woman Vehettge Tikkuie.

The Moravians were not Calvinists and showed greater affinity to Lutheranism. From a missionary perspective, their teachings were similar to the sin-soul-salvation model to which the first generation converts were exposed. For George Schmidt – as can be deduced from his Tagebuch (Bredekamp & Hattingh 1981) – sin is described in terms of a strong detachment from the values expressed in the Bible. Soul is defined according to a strong fear of hell and damnation. Schmidt himself recorded his words to Vehettge Tikkuie: “I have come to save your soul from your body and from hell.” Salvation is presented in terms of a strong dependency on Christ’s salvation through prayer and a body-restrictive lifestyle. Again Schmidt recorded these words to Vehettge: “I have come to show you the way to heaven.”

How did Vehettge Tikkuie receive this sin-soul-salvation version of Christianity?

Again, deductions need to be made from Khoekhoe life at the time. Vehettge suffered in understanding dancing and drinking to be sin, since the women were responsible for brewing beer in the kraals. Also, the soul was a foreign concept to somebody who could hardly understand how covering your body in full was a prerequisite for salvation. And as far as salvation was concerned, heaven and hell were places unknown to Vehettge in whose culture men died and became ancestor spirits: pleasing them was salvation.

Like Krotoa, Vehettge experienced tension because of the clashing of cultures and religions. She often brought back her Bible to Schmidt and was accused of deserting her Christian calling every weekend for drinking and dancing in the kraal.

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by Jeanius

Calvinism and South African women: Christina Landman

February 28, 2013 in Gender Violence, South Africa, uncategorized

Afrikaner Calvinism

Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae , October 2009, 35(2), 89-102

Calvinism and South African women:

a short historical overview Christina LandmanCh

Research Institute for Theology and Religion

University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


For the past three-and-a-half centuries, Christian women in South Africa have chosen for pietistic expressions of their faith, even when their teachers or husbands were committed to dogmatic Calvinism. This article traces the history of female piety in South Africa from its Calvinist introduction by Maria Quevellerius, the wife of Jan van Riebeeck. It tells the history of women in South Africa, both black and white, who were exposed to the sin-soul-salvation model of belief imposed upon them by missionaries, and who read pietistic literature from countries abroad. Three types of female piety are evident in South Africa today: firstly in black women healers; secondly in women attending the Worthy Women conferences where they openly assume subordinate roles vis-à-vis their husbands; and thirdly in women who accept the decision by the 2009 Synod of the ultra-Calvinist Reformed Churches in South Africa not to allow women to become elders or pastors.

This article examines the historically relevant question of the influence of Calvinism on these three forms of female piety, and seeks reasons for the apparent absence of Calvinist loyalties amongst South African women. While Calvinism regulates the fate of (especially white) women in South Africa as regards their formal recognition as elders and pastors, women themselves seem to feel comfortable within the worship patterns of pietism and revivalism which, in the final instance, are as sexist as was local Calvinism.


“Local Calvinism was as sexist as it was racist.” These words appear on the back cover of a book, The piety of Afrikaans women (Landman 1994), published in the same year that South Africa held its first democratic elections.

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This article explores both the history behind and consequences of this statement, and will therefore consist of two parts. In the first part, the history of local Calvinism and its influence on the lives of local women – both black and white – will be described in broad terms. To look at Calvinism from an historical point of view is particularly appropriate in 2009, a year commemorating the birth of John Calvin 500 years ago; and we will evaluate his legacy, especially during colonial times.

The second part of this article looks at the 15 years subsequent to the writing of the above statement to determine whether that aspect of Calvinism that was used to colonise the minds of men has been exposed and its influence broken. An inevitable question that arises is whether Calvinism is part of the future of South Africa’s church life, or whether it remains a stubborn remnant of its colonial past.

 Calvinism from Maria van Riebeeck to Marie du Toit

Maria Quevellerius van Riebeeck, Krotoa and orthodox Calvinism

The first generation of women converts in South Africa were not converted by the prayer – or any religious actions leading from it – that was read publicly by Jan van Riebeeck after having set foot on African soil on Sunday 7 April 1652, the first day of the new moon. In fact, the Journal of Jan van Riebeeck (Thom (ed.) 1954) which details his stay at the Cape reveals little concern for the people, and apparently more concern for the sheep. The journal tells of daily bartering for sheep with the local Khoekhoe, and the harsh and savage punishment that slaves received for stealing sheep: sheep seemed to be of more value than human beings, a principle that runs counter to many Calvinist principles.

The first generation of “Calvinist” converts at the Cape were Khoekhoe, and they were female. We have the story of one such female convert. But this is only half a story, referred to briefly in Van Riebeeck’s Journal.

Krotoa (1642–1674) was taught the rudiments of Christianity through the Calvinism of Maria Quevellerius, the huisvrouw van Jan van Riebeeck (Mees 1952), as the woman of the house was responsible for the religious education of her house workers.

What type of religion did Maria Quevellerius bring with her from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to the Cape in Africa? What did she tell Krotoa about God and about being religious?

Maria’s father, Abraham Quevellerius, was a Reformed minister in Rotterdam. He was known to be a strict follower of orthodox Calvinism, especially as far as the teaching of predestination was concerned. And, according to her biographer Mees (1952), there is no reason to believe that the young Maria entertained ideas independent from Calvinist orthodoxy.