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Maria Wilman

TODAY IN KIMBERLEY’S HISTORY – 07 DECEMBER

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7 December 1872, Olive Schreiner arrives in Kimberley for her first stay.
7 December 1950, A party held in honour of Miss Maria Wilman.

DID YOU KNOW

Maria Wilman (pictured) was born on 29 April 1867 in Beaufort West, in the Cape Colony to Herbert Wilman, an immigrant to South Africa from Yorkshire who served as an MP for the Beaufort West in the Cape Parliament, and Engela Johanna Neethling. Wilman was the fifth of nine daughters.

Wilman matriculated from the Good Hope Seminary in Cape Town, and in 1888, obtained her certificate in botany from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Wilman was the second South African woman to enter the university. In 1895, she completed an MA in botany which was only conferred upon her in 1931, as women were restricted from formal degrees until 1930. Wilman returned to South Africa and began work at the South African Museum in Cape Town as a volunteer in the Geology Department. She continued working as a volunteer in the museum until 1902 when she was appointed as an assistant in the same department.

In 1906, Wilman began an important journey in Vryburg, Kimberley, where she collected specimens and amassed data on rock engravings. This project was developed over thirty years and later, was published in her book titled, “Rock engravings of Griqualand West Bechuanaland”, in 1933. It remained the standard text on rock art in South Africa for close to fifty years.

In 1908, Wilman became the first director of Kimberley’s Alexander McGregor Museum which at the time researched Griqualand West. Her focus was on the preservation of San and Khoi artefacts, which she studied for the rest of her life.

Wilman also created the museum garden and rock garden in the Kimberley Public Gardens, later publishing on the flora of Griqualand West.

The University of the Witwatersrand awarded Wilman with an honorary doctorate in law in 1939.

In 1947, Wilman resigned from her position in the museum but continued working on her geology and botany studies. She retired from the museum in 1953 and settled in George.
Sadly, Wilman passed away on 9 November 1957 in George.

(Obituary from: Remembered.co.za)

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