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Catharina VAN BENGALE also known as Groote Catrijn was a slave from Bengale born about 1631 and she died about 1683. She was a slave woman from Paliacatte, on the Coromandel Coast, India. She was a slave in Batavia to the free woman Maria Magdalena (we don"t know whether she had a surname)

She was sexually assaulted on 8 October 1656 by her lover, the slave Claes van Malabar, in a stable at the Fort Rijswijck. In the altercation, she hit Claes with a ladder across his stomach. Claes died four days later since his bladder had burst. Catharine then faced charges of murder and received the death sentence. She was however pardoned, being banished as a slave to the Cape. She arrived at the Cape on 21 February 1657 on the ship Prins Willem. This ship was part of the return fleet which left Batavia on 4 December 1656. She was the first recorded female slave convict at the Cape.

She had 2 voorkinders, one by the ensign and chief of the garrison, Pieter Everaerts from Bruijsaert and one by the soldier Hans Christoffel Snijder (this is the Dutch version of Schneider) also known as Snijman, from Heidelberg in the Palatinate.

Groote Catrijn had a relationship with Pieter Everaerts, who was a high Company official (he served in both the Council of Policy and the Council of Justice), she had his child. Everaerts died 15 March 1664. On 6 September 1665 there are two seperate entries for Company slave Catharina baptising two children Petronella and Anthony (there is greater certainty that Petronella was Groote Catrijn"s child)

Petronella. This daughter, Petronella, when she grew up she gave birth to a child also named Petronella (the father was a soldier Willem Jansen), both of them must have died in some tragedy with the other members of the family, maybe some disease.

Susan = 2 Oct 1667
Anthoni = 13 Nov 1667

Hans Christoffel Snijman (also recorded as Christoffel Snijman) was a soldier in the garrison convicted and banished to Robben Island on 30th July 1667 for not standing guard - instead he had been sleeping on a regular basis with Groote Catrijn - washerwoman at the Fort to successive commanders. Thereafter, Snijders disappears from the records at the Cape. On instructions from the Council of India, Groote Catrijn was again pardoned.

VOORKIND with Hans Christoffel SNIJMAN
Christoffel Snyman baptised on 9 March 1669. (He became the stamvader of the Snyman family).

Groote Cathrijn then gets baptised herself as an adult with her fellow slave friend Mooij Ansela on 29 April 1668.

Catharina later married a free black (mardijker) Anthonij (Jansz) (de Later) van BENGALE on 20th December 1671. In a letter dated 6 January 1672 it is mentioned that Groot Catrijn was freely pardoned.

Groote Catrijn, her husband, her daughter and granddaughter - with the exception of Christoffel Snijman Jnr appear to have all died, in some family tragedy sometime between December 1682 and February 1683.

Antjonij Jansz van Bengale"s sizeable estate provided for the boy"s education and a substantial inheritance.
Christoffel Snyman was the stepson of Anthonie van Bengale.

M Upham "In Hevigen Woede ... Groote Catrijn: Earliest Recorded Female Bandiet at the Cape of Good Hope - A Study in Upward Mobility" Capenis, Sept 1997. Part of a series.

Thanks to research by:

Thanks to submissions by:
AM van Rensburg


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