Henrietta (Ettie or Het) Rebecca Stakesby Lewis was born in 1850 at the Umpukani Mission Station, Orange Free State (now Free State Province), and grew up in the Kat River area, Eastern Cape Province. She was Olive Schreiner’s elder sister. After Theophilus Schreiner, their elder brother became headmaster at the Cradock School, Eastern Cape Province, in 1867, Ettie went to keep house for him. She also started a girl's school there. She and Olive accompanied him when he left for the Diamond Fields, Northern Cape, in 1870. It was at the Diamond Fields when she became committed to the temperance movement. During the 1870s she launched the world-wide Women’s Temperance Prayer Campaign, and in the years which followed travelled to Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America, lecturing extensively on temperance and evangelical matters.
After the passing of her sister Alice Hemming in 1884, Ettie became the primary care giver of Alice’s children. She married John Stakesby Lewis in 1893, and the couple lived for some years in Kimberley before moving to Cape Town where Ettie opened a home for the destitute, on Upper Buitenkant Street, called “The Highlands”. “The Highlands” also served as a crèche for abandoned babies and a home for individuals who suffered from alcoholism and mental illness. Her husband passed away after suffering for long from a heart condition, in 1898.
Ettie was active in the Women’s Temperance Union that was established in 1889. She had a special interest in the prohibition of alcohol usage, and when the Cheap Wine Licensing Bill was promulgated in 1907, the Temperance Campaign formed under her influence protested against this legislation. The campaign culminated in a march, which she headed, to the houses of Parliament.
Henrietta Rebecca Stakesby Lewis passed away in 1912, and her funeral had an estimated 10 000 attendees.
- Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. 2000. Women Marching Into the 21st Century: Wathint' Abafazi, Wathint' Imbokodo. Shereno Printers: South Africa.
- Quinton, J. C., and Conradie, B. 1981. “Stakesby Lewis, Henrietta Rebecca (Het, Ettie)” in (Ed) Beyers, C. J. Dictionary of South African Biography Vol IV Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council.