Anna Johanna Dorothea de Villiers was a linguist, writer, and educator. She born on 24 December 1900 on the farm Saxenburg, Kuilsrivier. She was the eldest of six daughters and two sons of George Jacob de Villiers and his wife Anna Johanna Jacoba Bester. De Villiers received her first school education through Dutch as a medium of instruction, first from a governess and later from a man employed by her father to teach his children as the nearest school is too far. After that she went to school at Kuils River Primary School for four years and matriculated from Girls High School Bloemhof, Stellenbosch in 1918. She continued her studies at the University of Stellenbosch, where she obtained her BA degree in 1921 and a Higher Secondary Diploma in 1922. In 1924 she also obtained the MA degree with a dissertation on The farm of Guido Gezelle in Flemish literature.

She taught for a while at schools in Riversdale, Oudtshoorn, and Wynberg and was then attached to the staff of the Dictionary of the Afrikaans Language (WAT) from 1927 under the editorship of Professor JJ Smith. After that she is from 1930 for three years translator at the census office (Department of Statistics) in the Public Service. During this time she continued her doctoral studies under professor Dr. E.C Pienaar and obtained the D.Litt. Degree at the University of Stellenbosch in 1934 with a dissertation on The Dutch Language Movement in South Africa Title of her MA thesis: Die plaas van Guido Gezelle in de Vlaanmse letterkunde. Title of her doctoral thesis: Die Hollandse Taalbeweging in Suid-Afrika. After she obtained her doctoral degree, she joined the Technical College in Pretoria as lecturer in Afrikaans and, in 1939, the University of Pretoria to lecture on Cultural History. In 1940 she was offered the position of Head of the Huguenot University College in Wellington - the first woman to hold such a position in South Africa. She visited various countries as a South African delegate and always felt that the intellectual and moral levels of a country was largely determined by its women. In 1949 she spent one year post-doctoral studies at the Universities of Ghent in Belgium and Leiden in the Netherlands.

She undertook several trips abroad and visits North America, South America, the Far East, Australia, Israel, Turkey, Italy, and Belgium, among others. In July 1948 she was a delegate to the Congress of Universities in the Commonwealth in Britain. She has been a member of the South African Academy for Science and the Arts since 1943 (which she represents on the Afrikaans Language Monuments Committee), serves on the Council and the Senate of the University of South Africa , the Council of the Huguenot University Collegein Wellington, is a member of the Wellington Child Care Association and has also been a member of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde in Leiden since 1951. For some time she has been a member of the main board of the Afrikaanse Taalbond. Five times she was chairman of the Stellenbosch branch of the South African Association of University Women and for eight years chairman of the Bloemhofbond van Oudleerlinge. As a founding member she served on the board of the Stellenbosch Heemkring and she is also a board member of the Simon van der Stel Foundation. From 1951 she was co-editor with P.C Schoonees again connected to the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT), here she retired in 1966. During an international language conference in Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 1963, she presented a paper on place names used by the Voortrekkers, while at the Tenth World Congress on Linguistics in 1967.

Her memberships and professional activities:

  • Served in the Senate of the University of South Africa
  • Member of the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (1943) and of the Maatschappij der Dutche Letterkunde te Leiden (1951).

She wrote romantic stories against a historical background. Her interest in history caused detailed historical background to accompany her works. The following are the novels she wrote:

  • Sterker as die Noodlot (Stronger than fate), 1930
  • Die Wit Kraai (The White Crow), 1938
  • Hercule des Près, 1947
  • Purper daeraad, 1958
  • Die Storm Trek verby (The storm passes), 1958
  • Vrouegalery (Women's Gallery), 1962
  • Volksgebruike uit vervloe dae (Folk customs from days gone by), 1965 (Radio series)
  • Ons huisvlyt (Our Craft), 1966 (Radio series)
  • Barrevoets oor die Drakensberg-Pioniersvroue van die neëntiende Eeu, 1975

Anna de Villiers contributed to 8 books, including:

  • Ou Hollandse geskrifte in: C. M. van den Heever en P. de V. Pienaar, Kultuurgeskiedenis van die Afrikaner 3, 1950
  • Ons Dutche voorouers en Die Afrikaanse kultuurstryd (1870-1900) in: A. J. H. van der Walt, J. A. Wiid en A. L. Geyer, Geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika 2, 1951
  • Several biographies in die Suid-Afrikaanse Biografiese Woordeboekand Stellenbosch drie eeue, 1979

Although she was never married, she was briefly engaged to the poet I. D. du Plessis in the 1940s , but he broke off the engagement. Until her death she lived in Stellenbosch. She died in Stellenbosch on 1 November 1979, after suffering a stroke and lying in a coma in Stellenbosch Hospital for a month.


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