Maria Neethling

(19 June 1831 – 5 December 1912)

As the third child of Andrew and Maria Murray, Maria Jnr was the first daughter in the family.

For her basic education, she was first sent to Mrs Wentworth’s school and at the age of twelve, to the boarding school of Mrs Pears in Somerset East. After two years at Mrs Pears’ school, Maria came home to assist her mother with the little ones. She taught them in the morning and in the afternoons helped Mama with sewing. She still made time for reading biographies and poetry, in which she delighted.

In the early 1850’s, Maria spend three months with her unmarried brother, Andrew in the parsonage of Bloemfontein, where she took on the duties of house keeper and companion. They enjoyed each other’s presence, sharing many pleasant hours walking in the koppies and conversing about various readings on spiritual matters. Maria left for a visit to their parents in Graaff Reinet, met Rev Jan H Neethling from Prince Albert, and agreed to become his wife. It is said that Andrew was quite upset when he was notified of her unexpected engagement to his friend JH Neethling.

After their marriage, they spend seven years in Prince Albert, but were keen to go to Stellenbosch when called there shortly after the opening of the Theological Seminary. Here Maria’s eldest brother, John Murray, and Nicolaas Hofmeyr, a student friend of both John and Jan Neethling, were appointed the first two professors. It was a happy reunion and the three combined their forces to establish schools and other institutions in Stellenbosch.

Maria was a busy mother of twelve, an effective organiser of bazaars and other functions and initiated and became editor of a monthly magazine (De Wekker) for women. Her daughter, Ella, first helped her to write articles and later took over the duty as editor. Maria went on to become one of the first woman authors in South Africa – her first book (a book on the life of her son Willie Neethling, who died at a young age during an accident in Mochudi mission station) published under the name “His mother”. For her next publications, she used “Mrs Rev JH Neethling”. Only for her much later publications did she use her own capital letters “MN”.[1]

Apart from all these activities, Maria and Jan had an open home and many of the nephews who studied at the Theological Seminary, found a pleasant home with her and “Oom Jan Neethling”. [2]

Maria and Jan celebrated their golden wedding anniversary on 4th December 1901, and three years later Jan passed away. Maria died at the age of 82 after a brief sickbed. She was said to be “one of the mothers of the nation”.[3] She was also the one to author/compile the well-known family history Unto Children’s Children, the most personal and valuable history of the early generations of the Graaff Reinet Andrew Murray descendants.


[1] Die stil stem van die vroue in die vroee sendingwerk van die Kaapsche Kerk in Nyasaland Deel I (Murray I, STJ 2017)

[2] Unto Children’s Children, p 93-99

[3] De Kerkboden, 12 Dec 19912, p 1018