Millin, Sarah Gertrude (1888–1968) By Turner, Ellen
Born of Lithuanian Jewish parentage, author Sarah Gertrude Millin grew up amongst the diamond diggings in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. Beginning with The Dark River (1919), Millin published seventeen novels in a career spanning five decades. The publication of God’s Step-Children (1924) cemented her international reputation. The South Africa of Millin’s novels is represented with a stark and pessimistic realism. Her fiction depicts both urban and rural South Africa, and her work embodies many of the opinions of her English-speaking, white, middle-class, South African contemporaries. While Millin was a prolific and popular writer during her lifetime, posthumously her reputation has suffered because of the recurrent themes of racial purity and abhorrence of miscegenation in her writings. J. M. Coetzee’s 1980 article on the author has had a particularly significant role in the establishment of (still scant) scholarly criticism on Millin. Millin’s oeuvre also includes two autobiographies, a six-volume diary, and copious non-fictional works on South African concerns. Of these, her biography of diamond magnate Cecil Rhodes (1933) was particularly acclaimed. As a successful author in her own era, acquainted with many of the modernist writers of the time, Millin is both a significant figure in South African women’s literary history and a representative of racist colonial ideologies.