Maria Elizabeth Rothmann

IntroSouth African writer
Was Writer 
From South Africa 
Type Literature 
Birth 28 August 1875 
, Swellendam, South Africa
Death 7 September 1975 
, Swellendam, South Africa
Star sign Virgo
South African College
Hertzog Prize1953
Scheepersprys vir Jeugliteratuur1961
Tienie Holloway-medalje vir Kleuterliteratuur1970

Maria Elizabeth Rothmann, penname M.E.R. (28 August 1875, in Swellendam – 7 September 1975, in Waaihoek) was an Afrikaans writer, and co-founder of the Voortrekkers youth movement. Her unique contribution to Afrikaans literature was an ethical didactic, cultural historic review of a bygone Afrikaans society.


She was born Maria Elizabeth Rothmann in Swellendam, in the then Cape Colony. She was one of the first South African women to attend a university. She acquired a B.A.-degree at the South African College (now UCT) in Cape Town. At the age of 22 she started working as a teacher, first in Johannesburg, later in Grahamstown and eventually at Swellendam. On 18 September 1902, while in Grahamstown, she married Herbert Charles Gordon Oakshott, a school principal. From this marriage James Rothmann (later Jacobus or Koos) was born in 1903, and Anna in 1904. The couple reached a divorce on 4 July 1911. MER then kept her maidenname. Anna Rothmann was also a writer.

M.E.R.’s writing career started in 1918 in the lowveld. She became involved with journalism – first at Die Boerevrou (1920 to 1922) in Pretoria, and afterwards at Die Burger (1922 to 1928) in Cape Town. She became the first woman editor of the latter. In 1928, she was appointed the organising secretary of the A.C.V.V.. She travelled the country in this capacity, while investigating the question of poor whites.

In 1929, she was a co-founder of the Voortrekkers youth movement and afterwards also vice chairperson of the Cape Province’s National Party. She also served on the Carnegie Commission. In 1938, she was awarded a Carnegie grant which she used to visit the US.

She received the Hertzog Prize in 1953 for her oeuvre of prose. In 1961, she received the Scheepersprys vir Jeugliteratuur for Die tweeling trek saam (The twins join the Trek).
In 1970, she received the Tienie Holloway-medalje vir Kleuterliteratuur for Karlien en Kandas (Karlien and Kandas).

She received two honorary doctorate degrees, one from the University of Cape Town in 1951 and another from the University of South Africa in 1973; inter alia for her contributions to social work. She died ten days after her 100th birthday, at her home Kom nader (Come hither) in Swellendam.


  • Gerard, A.S. (1986). European-language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Comparative History of Literatures in European Languages. John Benjamins Publishing Company. ISBN 978-90-272-7468-7.
  • du Plessis Scholtz, Johannes (1979). “6”. Oor Skilders en Skrywers (in Afrikaans). Cape Town: Tafelberg publishers.
  • Rothmann, M.E. (1973). My beskeie deel: ‘n Outobiografiese vertelling (in Afrikaans). Cape Town: Tafelberg publishers.
  • Steyn, J.C. (2004). Die 100 jaar van MER (in Afrikaans). Cape Town: Tafelberg Publishers.