Haarlem women's day

International Women’s Day: 12 remarkable Haarlemmer women!

March 8 is the International Women’s Day and here in Expats Haarlem we want to celebrate it by honoring some of the Haarlemmer women who made and are still making an impact in the Netherlands and in the world! Haarlem’s history has many special women and we chose the ones we love the most.

Haarlem women's day

Corrie Ten Boom

Betsie Ten Boom (image from wikipedia)

Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom

They were sisters from Haarlem, the daughters of Casper ten Boom, a watchmaker, who helped many Jews escape from the Nazis during the Holocaust in World War II by hiding them in their home. They were caught and sent to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where Betsie died aged 59. Corrie ten Boom later wrote the famous book The Hiding Place, which is about the family′s experiences during World War II. They are Righteous Among the Nations which is an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis for altruistic reasons. Their house is now a museum in the center of Haarlem and you can go for an amazing virtual tour here with a guide telling you the whole story.

Kenau Simonsdochter Hasselaer (1526–1588)

haarlem women day

Fantasy portrait of Kenau with weapons, aged 47 in 1573 (image from wikipedia)

Kenau was a wood merchant of Haarlem, who became a legendary folk hero for her fearless defense of the city against the Spanish invaders during the siege of Haarlem in 1573. One account written in Latin from Delft how the people of Haarlem stood on the earthworks and threw burning tar wreaths around the necks of the enemy, and described how one Spanish soldier jumped into the river Spaarne to douse the flames only to drown from the weight of his armor. Somehow the story arose that it was Kenau who threw these ‘tar wreaths’. Kenau’s role as an earth carrier was soon glorified into a full-fledged soldier who was honored at the centennial celebrations of independence from Spain in 1673 and again during the bicentenary in 1773. By the 19th century she had led an army of 300 women against the Spanish, which had even been commemorated in a romantic painting by Barent Wijnveld and J.H. Egenberger. You can see one statue of Kenau with Wigbolt Ripperda on the Stationsplein Haarlem, by sculptor Graziella Curreli and another one where Kenau is leading Haarlem women in front of the Amsterdamse Poort, by sculptor Theo Mulder.

Femke Halsema

haarlem women's day

(image from wikipedia)

Femke was born in 1966 and she is a Dutch politician and filmmaker. On 27 June 2018 she was appointed Mayor of Amsterdam and began serving a six-year term on 12 July 2018. She is the first woman to hold the position on a non-interim basis. She previously was a member of the House of Representatives for the leftist green party GroenLinks from 1998 to 2011, and served as the party’s parliamentary leader from 2002 to 2010. In 2014, Halsema made the six-part documentary series Seks en de Zonde (“Sex and Sin”) with Hassnae Bouazza about women in the Islamic world. She interviewed activists Veena Malik and Souad al-Shammary for this. Together with Gijs van de Westelaken, she developed and produced the TV-series De Fractie (“The Parliamentary Party”) about politics in The Hague. She has been working with her partner Robert Oey on a documentary series on terrorism. In the Spring of 2017, she made a theatre tour with her theatre-lecture Een Vrij Land (“A Free Country”).

Elisabeth Johanna Koning (1816 – 1887)

Haarlem women's day

Flower still life, 1841 (image from wikipedia)

Haarlem women's day

(image from wikipedia)

She was a Dutch still life painter who was born in Haarlem and was a pupil of Henriette Ronner-Knip. She was something of a child prodigy and at age 9 was honored by having her animal drawings on show at the 1825 Tentoonstelling Nationale Nijverheid (National Industrial show) in Haarlem. In 1844 she was made honorary member of Kunst zij ons doel (Art is our goal) and a year later she was named member of the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. In 1859 she married the ship captain Sybrand Stapert and accompanied him on a trip to Indonesia, and her drawings of sea life from this trip granted her an honorary membership in the Naturalist’s club of Indonesia, but the couple returned to the Netherlands later the same year and settled in Groningen. After her marriage she signed works “EJS geb. K” (short for Elisabeth Johanna Stapert, born Koning). Her Indonesian botanical work is often seen as her most important legacy, but her flower paintings were awarded prizes and purchased by public collections in her lifetime. Koning died in Rotterdam. Since she was active in international shows from an early age and married late in life, she is better known under her maiden name.

Isabella van Leeuwarden (1696 – 1773)

haarlem women's day

Remonstrantse hofje in Ursulastraat in Haarlem (wikipedia)

She was a Dutch Mennonite businesswoman and hofje (courtyard surrounded by almshouses) founder of Haarlem. Van Leeuwarden was the daughter of Jacobus van Leeuwarden, owner of a velvet weaving business in Haarlem, and Maria Noordijk. She married the local poet Pieter Merkman jr., owner of a ribbon-making business, on 8 November 1752 in Haarlem. Her estate was sold by the local artist and art dealer Vincent Jansz van der Vinne in 1773 and a copy of the catalog lists her collection. Among other costly objects was a pair of pendant wedding portraits by Frans Hals dated 1643. Though Isabella herself came from a Mennonite family, she became Remonstrants and founded the Remonstrants Hofje in Haarlem. The company correspondence from her family cloth and ribbon business is preserved in the Amsterdam archives.

Caecilia ‘Cilia’ Loots (1903 – 1988)

Haarlem women's day

(image from wikipedia)

She was a Dutch teacher and antifascist resistance member, known for saving Jewish children during World War II. She is also recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Loots was born in Haarlem. She ran a private school for children with severe learning disabilities in Amersfoort, Utrecht. In 1942, she decided to hide some Jewish children in her school at her friend’s request. She hid other children as well as time went on, and Dina van Heiningen (later van der Geld) helped her with the housework, while knowing the Jewish children were being hidden. Dina helped her aid the resistance through activities such as courier services and distributing illegal newspapers. Loots’ school was a risky place to hide the children as it was near the Amersfoort internment camp; an emergency hiding place was created in the attic but was rarely used. Loots also hid some adults in her home during the war, including escapees from the Amersfoort internment camp, as well as holding resistance meetings there. In 1969 Loots was recognized as one of the Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.She died at the age of 84 and is interred in Leusden.

Yvonne Dold-Samplonius (1937 – 2014)

haarlem women's day


She was a Dutch mathematician and historian from Haarlem, who specialized in the history of Islamic mathematics during the Middle age. She was particularly interested in the mathematical methods used by Islamic architects and builders of the Middle Ages for measurements of volumes and measurements of religious buildings or in the design of muqarnas. Yvonne Samplonius obtained her degree in mathematics and Arabic from the University of Amsterdam (Doktoratsexamen) in 1966. She married in 1965 the German mathematician Albrecht Dold and studied from 1966 to 1967 at Harvard University under the direction of Professor John E. Murdoch. She obtained in 1977 a PhD for her analysis of the treatise Kitāb al-mafrādāt li Aqāţun (Book of Assumptions of Aqātun). Since 1995, she has been an associate member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Scientific Computing (IWR) of the University of Heidelberg, with whom she has published several videos on Islamic geometrical art. In 1985, she became a visiting professor at the University of Siena. In 2000, she organized with Joseph Dauben the conference “2000 Years of Transmission of Mathematical Ideas”. In 2002, she became a Corresponding Member of the International Academy of the History of Sciences and was elected effective member in 2007. She was made honorary citizen of Kashan in Iran in 2000.


Catharina Johanna Lodders

Haarlem women's day

Rina Lodders leaving from Schiphol to London in 1963 (wikipedia)

Catharina Johanna Lodders, now Catharina Evans (born 18 August 1942 in Haarlem) is a Dutch model and beauty queen who won the 1962 Miss World contest, representing the Netherlands. She became the second woman (after Corine Rottschafer in 1959) from the Netherlands to win the title. The pageant was held in London. Upon winning the contest, she is quoted as saying “I don’t think I’m the most beautiful girl in the world – I am the most beautiful girl here“. On 12 December 1963, as a 21-year-old Dutch model and former beauty queen from Haarlem, Lodders accepted the marriage proposal of 22-year-old American singer/songwriter/dancer Chubby Checker. Checker said he met Lodders in Manila the prior January. (Checker’s song “Loddy Lo”, a #13 hit in late 1963, was written about her.) They married on 12 April 1964 at Temple Lutheran Church in Pennsauken, New Jersey. They later raised their children in Paoli, Pennsylvania.




Johanna Naber (1859 – 1941)

Haarlem women's day

Johanna Nabber circa 1898 (image from wikipedia)

She was a Dutch feminist, historian and author during the first feminist wave. She was one of the three founders of the International Archives for the Women’s Movement (1935), now known as Atria Institute on gender equality and women’s history, and was herself a prolific author of historical texts about influential women and the women’s movement. Naber was born in Haarlem to an affluent and intellectual Dutch family. Naber was also a self-taught historian. During the 1890s, she started publishing on important female historical figures. During her lifetime she published many biographies of noteworthy women as well as works on the early Dutch women’s movement in the 19th century. Some notable works include her 1909 Wegbereidsters (‘Pioneers’) about various women who had paved the way for the women’s movement and Frederika Bremer (1901-1865).



Hannie Schaft (1920 – 1945)

Haarlem women's day


Haarlem women's day

Hannie Schaft’s monument in Kenaupark. (wikipedia)

Hannie Schaft was a communist resistance fighter during World War II from Haarlem. She became known as ‘the girl with the red hair’ (Dutch: Het meisje met het rode haar). From a young age, Schaft discussed politics and social justice with her family, which encouraged her to pursue law and become a human rights lawyer. During her law studies at the Universiteit van Amsterdam she became friends with the Jewish students Philine Polak and Sonja Frenk. This made her feel strongly about actions against Jews. During the war she joined the “Council of Resistance” and she was responsible for sabotaging and assassinating various targets. She carried out attacks on Germans, Dutch Nazis, collaborators and traitors. She learned to speak German fluently and became involved with German soldiers. Her involvement led “the girl with the red hair” to be placed on the Nazis’ most-wanted list. Schaft dyed her hair black to hide her identity. She was eventually arrested at a military checkpoint in Haarlem on 21 March 1945 while transporting secret documentation for the Resistance. Schaft was executed by Dutch Nazi officials on 17 April 1945, three weeks before the end of the war in the dunes of Bloemendaal. After the war, the remains of 422 members of the resistance were found in the Bloemendaal dunes, 421 men and one woman, Hannie Schaft. There is a monument in her honor in Kenaupark.


Debbie is the pseudonym of Ria Schildmeyer, a Dutch singer who was born in Haarlem in 1954. She was also part of a trio called Bonnie, Debbie & Rosy. Debbie’s debut as a singer was in 1967 as a singer in the group Ghizlane. Her first single “Flower Power Rock” was released by Gert Timmerman’s record label Carpenter. Debbie started her solo career in 1972 and made several hits including “Everybody Join Hands” (a Giorgio Moroder composition), “Angelino” and “I Love You More And More”. In 1984 Debbie’s “Souvenirs Del Sol” was ranked number 33 in the Nationale Hitparade. She also published a new version of “Everybody Join Hands” that year. Debbie released three albums: “Everybody Join Hands” (1972), “It Takes Two” (1982, with Oscar Harris) and “Everybody Loves Somebody” (1983).

[source: wikipedia]

Christina Kambanella
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