An interview with… Elsabé Brits


an-interview-with-elsabe-brits-hairy-armpits-elsabeElsabé Brits. Source: bloemfonteincourant

Author, humanitarian, supporter of #peace, I am delighted to welcome Elsabé Brits to the halls of Hairy Armpits interviews.

Her book, Emily Hobhouse: Beloved Traitor, released earlier this year, is about an inspirational lady who went against the grain of war and stood up for her pacifist beliefs.

I stopped by to ask her a few questions about the book, how she thinks peace can be brought about, and why sharing Emily’s story has been so important to her:


So, tell me about your book?

The book is now out, in print available in South Africa and world wide as an ebook. It is called: Emily Hobhouse: Beloved Traitor about a pacifist and campaigner for human rights. It is a fresh, nuanced look at an extraordinary woman and her lifelong fight for justice.

international-women-of-congress-pacifistsEmily Hobhouse and the first international Congress of Women on the peace ship. Source: the history press

What was it that made this women so interesting and unique to you?

Her defying the constraints of her gender and class – how she travelled across continents to speak out against oppression. A passionate pacifist and a feminist, she opposed both the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War and WW1, which led to accusations of treason. Despite saving thousands of lives in two wars, she died alone – an unsung hero in her own country.

Why did you decide to write Emily Hobhouse’s story?

She did so many things, I wanted to re-tell the story of this intellectual – this women ahead of her time.

She spoke out against the atrocities in the concentration camps in South Africa, even though she herself was English.

And she saved a lot of lives. With the outbreak of World War One she become involved in many peace projects and even there after she fed thousands of children in Leipzig until 1922 with her own feeding scheme. She also saved thousands of people from dying in the concentration camps, (during the Anglo Boer War) by helping to improve the conditions of the more than 100 camps.

What an inspirational woman! -Did you write your book to inspire other women? If so, why do you think that is important to do?

Yes, a lot of books are written about the men, and what they did: The generals who made war. More seldom are books written, about the women who fought for peace. They are often portrayed in a negative light as “peace cranks”- a label given to Emily, or even “hysterical”.

War is always wrong. Emily thought so, as do I. But she was largely forgotten in her own country for what she did. But Kitchener is remembered.

Her story was never really told, and I wanted to give a voice to her story.

Is there anything specifically that Emily said that inspires you, about peace?

Emily said about war:

” I believe it useless to soften or civilize war – that there is no such thing as ‘civilized war’; there is war between civilized people certainly, but as we now see that becomes more barbarous than war between barbarians. I believe that the only thing is to strike at the root of the evil and demolish war itself as the great and impossible Barbarity.”

And she wrote this in an open letter to women in 1914:

“The war (WWI) is crushing helpless millions. These are mostly women and children. (…) A hundred years ago men proclaimed they fought (…) to secure the rights, the freedoms and the independence of all nations. War failed to secure those objects then, can we reasonably suppose it will do so now?”

They are such profound words.

Which other humanitarian role models do you admire?

Jane Goodall and Desmond Tutu. Sources: Dominican & This is a sign

I admire Jane Goodall and archbishop Desmond Tutu.

What does peace mean to you?

Peace to me also means equality, respect for all people and the protection of the most vulnerable in our society, which includes the rights of animals and nature. To live in harmony and to have meaningful debates and interactions. Tolerance.

Have you always been interested in peace?

I read my first book about the horrible things that happened during WW2 and the holocaust when I as sixteen, and since then I have been opposed to any kind of armed conflict. As well as the oppression of people’s human rights. I also feel very passionate about equal rights.

I learn more and more everyday.

an-interview-with-hairy-armpits-inner-peaceInner Peace. Source: heavenly places

Do you think developing ‘inner peace’ can help with current conflicts in the world?

I do think one has to be in touch with your own feelings and not be scared to discover your own emotions. I wish more men would do it.

In terms of international conflict, what do you think might help bring more peace and less war?

I think tolerance for diversity would help a lot. And constructive debate. Women should have a bigger say; they are still being side-lined, yet they and their children, are most often than not, the victims of war.

I love that and totally agree… And finally, any future plans for the next book?

Not yet, but I am playing with ideas. Whatever I choose, it will be about a woman… or women.

an-interview-with-hairy-armpits-innerpeacepageWomen. Source: inspiringmama

Thank you so much for joining us today, Elsabé for this interview about peace and literature, Emily Hobhouse: Beloved Traitor promises to be a fascinating read.

Like what you read? Please, support writers like Elsabé who not only have beautiful names, but are writing wonderful material to spread the word of peace and equality. It is people like her who are putting that extra space of writing in the ‘peace’ section of the bookshop. Slowly, it is growing. And we thank her.


You can follow her and her work here:

@elsabebrits (for Emily related issues: @EmilyBoek)

And if you would like to read about the inspiration that is Emily Hobhouse you can buy the book here:

In English.

Netherlands English e-book

AND if you want to order a Print copy, they will send overseas.


What do you think? Who are your peaceful heroes? Know of any other great writers promoting peace? Let me know, in the comments below!


 If you enjoyed this article and would like to give me a gift, thank you in advance x

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