Children’s book about the life and trials of Anna de Koning 'Woman of Freedom' published

Author Lauren Jacobs announces fifth book release.

Author Lauren Jacobs announces fifth book release.

Published Jun 24, 2024


Cape Town - While not much is known about the life and legacy of Anna de Koning, a new children’s book aims to make her a household name and her story taught at schools – of how an enslaved child arrived in the Cape Colony from Bengal and would remarkably become one of the wealthiest and most influential women of her time.

Lauren Jacobs has authored and published, through Naledi, her most recent and fifth publication, Woman of Freedom: The story of Anna de Koning, illustrated by Elanie Bieldt.

Jacobs, from Cape Town, completed a BA in journalism and psychology, pursued an Honours degree in counselling, a Master’s degree in theology, and is currently a PhD student in theology.

She also worked as a non-profit trauma worker and therapist for five years, dealing with predominantly women abuse. She is also a journalist and radio presenter.

At just five years old, De Koning arrived in the Cape with her mother Ansela/Angela and two siblings around 1660-1661.

They laboured for Jan van Riebeek before being sold to Abraham Gabbema, who handed Ansela her freedom papers the night before he returned to Europe.

Ansela purchased land in the Heerengracht (currently Adderley Street), where De Koning grew up in a large home. In 1678, De Koning married a wealthy Swede and VOC official, Olof Bergh, and had 12 children.

She inherited his entire estate and wealth following his death.

Her portrait is the only one of its kind of a freed slave woman painted in the 17th century of the Cape.

“I spend quite a lot of time reading history books and almost as much time in the archives, trying to uncover and find the women who contributed to our city, so about five years ago I was reading about Anna de Koning and I fell in love with her story.

“I thought if only young children could learn more about her and about the women who shaped Cape Town, the city that I love so much, how much more pride and love would we have for our ancestors and matriarchs,” Jacobs said.

“Anna’s story is really one of triumph and inspiration, and I wanted to bring to life the story of a woman who is a stammoeder (matriarch) for many families.

“It is my hope that schools would begin to use books like this for teaching, instead of relying so much on overseas writing to form our children’s thoughts and narratives.”

She said the book was not an in-depth look at the lives of enslaved individuals, but rather the story of De Koning, her unique portrait that exists, and how she forged her own path living as a wealthy, unmarried woman following her husband’s death, despite numerous marriage proposals.

“I was also struck by how many people have shared with me that she is one of their ancestors, and I hope we as families can use books like this to teach our children about our family’s history. I was also struck by the fact that we can visit places Anna owned, like Groot Constantia.”

The book, which was released on Thursday, can be purchased online via the website or email [email protected]

[email protected]

Cape Argus