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We, women

Time period: 1960-present
Number of interviews: 18
Accessibility: by appointment via
Period of interviews: 2022

The struggle for equal status and representation of women and men in Flanders is more than a century old. Great strides have been made, but we are not there yet. Using testimonies and archive footage, the four-part series ‘We, women’ outlines the evolution of the position of women in our society, both privately and in public life.


How have wrong expectations, upbringing, glass ceilings, discrimination, pressure, prejudice or other obstacles made it difficult for women to develop to their full potential in recent decades? For example, in the areas of upbringing, education, marriage, family, sexuality, work and politics. How have they dealt with this? What have action groups, politicians and individual women been able to change? And how do women experience all these obstacles today?


In ‘We, women’, women of all ages and walks of life tell their stories, together with politicians, figureheads of the women’s movement and former ‘Dolle Mina’s’. Their testimonies are illustrated with punishing archive footage. These are at times disconcerting and at other times funny stories about being brought up as a housekeeper, fighting to be allowed to study, the conquest of men’s professions, sexual taboos and men who still think they know better. The four episodes focus successively on sexuality, marriage and family, professional life and politics.


We, women’ uses the tried and tested formula of Children of…: the entire historical and current story is told by committed witnesses who look the viewer straight in the eye.

A surprising look behind the scenes of the struggle for women’s rights. Often stunning archive material that not least puts the sexism of our own public broadcaster on display. And eighteen women who draw you into their stories and leave you with deep respect.

The episodes

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S1 | Afl.1

In charge of your own body

Battle for sexual freedom, from taboo on monthlies to Metoo


S1 | Afl.2

Women must know their place

For decades, women have been brought up to be obedient to men.


S1 | Afl.3

Welcome to the world of men

For a long time, education prepared girls mainly for the household.



S1 | Afl.4

Women in power

Women organised, resisted and conquered their place

Below is an overview of the 18 witnesses – or participants in Canvas’ documentary We, Women – arranged by age.


  • Victoire Van Nuffel (1937): cycling champion and bar owner, openly lesbian at a time when that was anything but obvious.
  • Nelly Maes (1941): politician who fought against sexism in politics and campaigned for women’s rights.
  • Gerlinda Swillen (1942): Dutch teacher and VUB researcher, militant for equal pay for equal work.
  • Ida Dequeeker (1943): emancipation official at VDAB, co-founded the Dolle Mina movement in Flanders and participated in the influential Vrouwen Overleg Komitee.
  • Lieve Flour (1944): administrative assistant in the construction sector, grew up in a stifling traditional environment and overcame a humiliating marriage.
  • Josette Franckson (1946): worker FN Herstal, involved in the legendary women’s strike at that factory in 1966.
  • Margot Roggen (1948): administrative assistant in the insurance sector, often had to fight against male privilege and even overt discrimination as a child and later during her studies and at work.
  • Marie Jeanne Declerq (1950): police commissioner, made a career in the male bastion of the Judicial Police.
  • Liliane Versluys (1951): lawyer and visual artist, engaged in the Leuven refuge and published the controversial book Your Rights as a Woman (1987).
  • Moniek Darge (1952): composer, was active in Dolle Mina and founded Vrouwen Tegen Verkrachting.
  • Kati Couck (1954): ABVV staff member, active with Dolle Mina, founded abortion centre Kollektief Anticonceptie, started Vluchthuis Gent and organised self-defence courses for women.
  • Linda Van Crombruggen (1960): former complaints coordinator VRT, testifies about sexism and sexual harassment in her own home.
  • Khadija Zamouri (1967): politician, distanced herself from her conservative Moroccan Islamic milieu, became politically active with Open VLD, went to work on cabinets and became a Brussels MP.
  • Leyla Yüksel (1971): became a gynaecologist with the full support of her parents and, in her own words, was more bothered by sexism among white doctors than Turkish patriarchs.
  • Wendy Van den Heuvel (1978): administrative clerk and author, her mother was abused by her father. Recently, two male colleagues ambushed her on a dating site and shared her intimate photos. She left the company, but her experience inspired her to write a book.
  • Pinar Akbas (1980): has mixed feelings about her Turkish upbringing, went to college and temporarily entered politics, is currently a nurse and published her autobiography Niran and me this year.
  • Heleen Struyven (1988): worked as a lawyer at reputable firms, but noticed that sexism still exists there too. Yet she kept going for it… until she crashed.
  • Romy Schlimbach (1995): was bullied for her looks in childhood, experienced an eating disorder, an admission and severe depression, but today she is a plus-size model and influencer: body positivity is the alternative she promotes to the stifling beauty ideal.

Customs around pregnancy and childbirth

Lucia Kelly
Time period: 1967-1973
Number of interviews: 18
Period of interviews: 1967 - 1973

Language: Papiamentu


8 interviews Ministry of Culture and Education of Aruba (1967-1973)

10 interviews Research Section of the National Archives of Aruba


Information obtained through oral history was used to research customs around pregnancy and childbirth. The customs mentioned do not necessarily apply to the entire Aruban population at the beginning of the 20th century.

Interviews conducted by the Aruba Ministry of Culture and Education between 1967 and 1973 were used. Own interviews with several women in Aruba about the customs as described were also used.





In all villages where institutionalized medical care is poorly developed, people use the knowledge accumulated generations after generations regarding the care of the sick and the care of pregnant women. Through the research I came to realize the valuable work done by a large group of women in the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century that we could not forget. They helped generations of women bring their children into the world, realizing very well that along the biological side there is also the psychological side and from which we can learn. In recognition of their work, I would like to mention their names. For this I consulted the birth certificates starting in 1831 and ending in 1930. It was in 1831 that the government established the Civil Register in Aruba.


Lucia Kelly, February 2005

Dutch housemaids

Owner: Barbara Henkes
Time period: 1920 - 1950
Number of interviews: 28
Accessibility: Contact for access.
Transcripts: Unknown

Barbara Henkes (1955); historian and journalist; active in the Groningen women’s movement and the CPN 1979-1982; received her PhD in 1995 with Heimat in Holland. German maids 1920-1950; publishes in the field of women’s studies, oral history and 20th century history; affiliated to the University of Groningen. These interviews with Dutch maids formed the basis for the book Kaatje ben je boven?


Javastraat The Hague, ca. 1900

Kaatje, ben je boven? : leven en werken van Nederlandse dienstbodes 1900- 1940

Authors: Barbara Henkes, Hanneke Oosterhof

Publisher: Sun, Nijmegen, 1985

EAN: 9789061682424

PDF of the publication

Deep into the 20th century, countless young, unmarried women were employed as servants: as morning maids, chamber or kitchen maids, day maids or farm maids. Why did they go into employment? How did they get a shift? What did they have to do? And were they prepared for it? What made a shift a good or a bad job? How did maids survive the tension between social distance and personal involvement within the employer’s family? The Kaatjes, Dina’s and Betsies regularly appear in literature, but in historiography the servant’s existence has hardly been addressed. Barbara Henkes and Hanneke Oosterhof open up this side of the often ‘hidden’ power relations within the private sphere and show how social developments affected it. They do so on the basis of archive material, trade union and women’s magazines, but also and especially on the basis of interviews with dozens of women who look back on their life as servants.

Women professors

Time period: 1950 - 2000
Number of interviews: 5
Accessibility: Online
Transcripts: Unknown

Interviewer: Dieneke Stam


Atria has recorded the life stories of female professors.

2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the appointment of the first female professor in the Netherlands, Johanna Westerdijk (extraordinary professor of plant pathology (phytopathology), Utrecht University) (see photo). Every reason to pay ample attention to the current position of female professors just now. The advance of women in universities is still slow. With 18% female professors, the Netherlands ranks fourth lowest in the EU.


Women professors’ stories

Atria portrays the careers and life histories of a number of professors. Their stories reflect a unique part of the history of women in the 20th and 21st centuries. Five female emeritus professors, from different universities and different disciplines, were interviewed according to the scientific oral history method. They were asked about the course of their careers and how they look back on them as women and professors.

The integral interviews can be accessed through Atria.


Onder professoren

Women’s shelter

Time period: 1974-2011
Number of interviews: 5
Accessibility: Unknown
Transcripts: Unkown
Period of interviews: Unkown

This Oral History project interviews five women who have left their mark on the 40-year history of women’s shelters in the Netherlands.


The role of the Blijf-van-m’n-Lijf shelters and the women who founded the first shelter and who have been directors of the growing organisation at decisive moments, or who have otherwise had a great influence on the development of the women’s shelter. Their personal and professional story complements the sources in the literature and archive on women’s shelters (i.e. Blijf-van-m’n-Lijf).


The interviews also focus on the significance of the self-help principle as initially developed in Blijf-van-mijn-Lijf.


ATRIA – blijf van m’n lijf



Abusing girls in the Roman Catholic Church

Time period: 1940-2016
Number of interviews: 6
Accessibility: Online
Transcripts: Summaries

Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is mostly associated with boys. Less known is how girls fared. The Women’s Platform for Church Child Abuse (VPKK) presented the life stories project Nobody Will Believe You on Friday, 9 September 2016, to give a voice to these women.


No one will believe you

The project consists of six video interviews with women who have experienced sexual abuse and mistreatment in the Catholic Church.

Dolle Mina

'Dolle Mina's' [Women's Lib] demonstrating for the right of birth control and abortion showing their bellies with the slogan 'baas in eigen buik' [woman's right to choose]. Utrecht, 14 March 1970.

dolle mina


Interviewers: Nienke, Poortvliet, Marijke Naezer, Mieke Aerts, Barbara Henkes


Number of interviews: 8

Dolle Mina was a left-wing, radical feminist action group. Despite the formal rights women had, there was still a lot of injustice and disadvantage. Through playful actions, they wanted to improve women’s rights. Their sources of inspiration were campaigning women in the US and the Maagdenhuis occupation in Amsterdam. The action group took its name from the nickname of women’s campaigner Wilhelmina Drucker. This combative feminist of the first hour was nicknamed ‘Iron Mina’. Wilhelmina Drucker pursued the same goals as the action group a century earlier.


ATRIA -> Dolle Mina

Women’s Peace Movement

Vredesgang der Nederlandse Vrouwen, Amsterdam - 18 mei 1936
Time period: 1914-1940
Number of interviews: 8
Accessibility: Unknown
Transcripts: Unknown

Interviewers: Marijke Mossink, Annette Mevis



THERE WERE ONCE two women’s peace unions, the Algemeene Nederlandsche Vrouwen Vredebond and the Internationale Vrouwenbond voor Vrede en Vrijheid. Both had been founded at the beginning of World War I with an appeal to something like women’s special responsibility for a better world.
The ANW was of the so-called apolitical ‘improve the world start with yourself’ type. Its members went on home visits like salvation soldiers to propagate peace from person to person.
The IVW, the Dutch branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, was self-confident, professional and politically dyed-in-the-wool in the feminist suffrage struggle. Like self-appointed mediators, its leaders, including Aletta Jacobs, went round heads of state and prime ministers to organise peace.


Political scientist Marijke Mossink explains what moved both unions in her dissertation De levenbrengsters – Over vrouwen, vrede, feminisme en politiek in Nederland 1914-1940. On 10 May 1940, they had come within a hair’s breadth of merging, after years of disputes over the forms of action and organisation of their female mission.



De levenbrengsters
over vrouwen, vrede, feminisme en politiek in Nederland 1914-1940

Marijke Mossink

Stichting beheer IISG, 1995 – 252 pages



Proefschrift van de Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit Politieke en Sociaal-Culturele Wetenschappen. Door middel van een vergelijkend onderzoek naar de Algemeene Nederlandsche Vrouwen Vredebond en de Internationale Vrouwenbond voor Vrede en Vrijheid is nagegaan hoe het mogelijk was dat deze twee vrouwenvredesorganisaties naast elkaar bestonden, en waarom het zo moeilijk was om tot een fusie te komen. Centraal staat de betekenis die in beide organisaties aan de begrippen ‘vrouwen’, ‘vrede’ en ‘organisatie’ werd toegekend.




Red women

Time period: 1975 - 2000
Number of interviews: 8
Accessibility: Unknown
Transcripts: Unknown

Oral History interviews with eight women who played important roles in the Red Women and women’s training centre De Born


For brief descriptions of the interviewees see the website van Artria

Women’s relief work

Time period: 1950 - 1990
Number of interviews: 8
Accessibility: Unknown
Transcripts: Unknown

Oral history interviews with feminists who pioneered women’s mental and physical health care.


For brief descriptions of the interviewees, see the website van Artria