Dorothea Bleek (1873–1948) devoted her life to completing the ‘bushman researches’ that her father and aunt had begun in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. This research was partly a labour of familial loyalty to Wilhelm, the acclaimed linguist and language scholar, and to Lucy Lloyd, a self-taught linguist and scholar of bushman languages and folklore; but it was also an expression of Dorothea’s commitment to a particular kind of scholarship and an intellectual milieu that saw her spending her entire adult life in the study of the people she called ‘bushmen’. How has history treated Dorothea Bleek? Has she been recognised as a scholar in her own right, or as someone who merely followed in the footsteps of her famous father and aunt? Jill Weintroub examines Bleek’s life story and family legacy, her rock art research and her fieldwork in southern Africa, and, in light of these, evaluates her scholarship and contribution to the history of ideas in South Africa. The compelling and surprising narrative reveals an intellectual inheritance intertwined with the story of a woman’s life, which shows that Dorothea’s life work – her study of the bushmen – was also a sometimes surprising emotional quest.