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The ZMV women’s movement in Brabant


As part of the BHIC fellowships, Kirsten van der Wielen conducted research on the ZMV women’s movement in North Brabant (black, migrant and refugee women). For this research, she focused specifically on the Centers for Foreign Women in Oss and in Tilburg. Based on archival research and interviews conducted, an overview of the organizational formation of ZMV women in North Brabant was created. An overview (page) of the project can be found here.


This project can be divided into a research proposal and the results and uses thereof. Van der Wielen focused on the 1980s, specifically feminism and migration. Her goal was to map the ZMV women’s movement in North Brabant. She focused on the initiatives for and by ZMV women (through the CBV, Centers for Foreign Women), both through archival material and interviews. For this, she researched the cities of Oss and Tilburg.


The final products are aimed at both a broad audience and researchers. First, it produced research results on the different functions and origins of CBVs. Future researchers can easily pick up this same topic with this research guide and a list of available primary sources.


The interviews will eventually be posted on the website.

Forgotten heroes

Vergeten helden : tien portretten van vrouwen over migratie
Sema Yildiz

Heusden-Zolder: RIMO Limburg, 2012 

ISBN: 9789081899406

Much has been written about migration. Very often it was then about men who worked in coal mines, among other things, as part of labour migration. Rarely were women discussed.


The Steenveld neighbourhood association in Beringen therefore launched a heritage project focusing on the life stories of women from the neighbourhood. The result of numerous interviews and the collection of private documents and photos is a publication with the women’s stories. While their husbands were able to develop social contacts through their work in the coal mines, the women went through a very different journey. Their stories are little known.


Ten women from the Steenveld district in Beringen shed the veil of their souls in this book. Each of them tells strong life stories that offer a surprising insight into their world of experience. Travel stories with in one hand a suitcase full of memories and in the other one full of hope for a better future, stories about having to say goodbye, gnawing homesickness, fear of the unknown, and the unconditional love for the children that makes every sacrifice acceptable. Flemish women are also featured, as migration was a profound event for both migrants and natives.


The non-profit organisation Rimo Limburg conceived the plan to record life stories of older women to gauge their existential experience of migration. ‘I focused on the experience of women because they occupied a totally different position from the men,’ says Sema Yildiz. ‘While the men had many contacts through work in the mine, the women had fewer opportunities for integration.’

The women interviewed are all from the Steenveld district in Koersel. Sema Yildiz worked there as a community worker and has a trusting relationship with them. Steenveld was a small mining district four kilometres from the Beringen mine. In the 1970s, the neighbourhood was taken over by the Cantonal Construction Company. It expanded the neighbourhood with social housing, which was mainly occupied by residents of Turkish origin, some 75 per cent. In the old neighbourhood, mainly Belgians, East and South European migrants live there. But in recent years there has been an influx of Turks here too. The neighbourhood had 260 families in 2012 . Yildiz interviewed 10 women: three Turkish, one Spanish, one German, one French, two Belgian, one Italian, one Dominican and a local kindergarten teacher. ‘First-generation migrant women speak little Dutch. That is why the stories are printed in two languages each time: Dutch and a summary in their own language.

Born to

The conditions for giving birth have changed rapidly over the past century. The City Archives looks back at the evolution of pregnancies, births and the maternity period over time. The exhibition takes you back to the old Ypres maternity home in Lange Torhoutstraat where thousands of babies from Ypres and the surrounding area were born.

Using photos, objects and archive documents from the museum’s own archive collection and private collections, you can imagine yourself back in the Bieke, Bartje or Roosje department. Stories of mothers and midwives and a unique collection of medical instruments bring history to life.


Thus, the Ypres City Archives has supplemented its collection with a pack of new material in the form of life stories and testimonies. The archive team conducted interviews and, with sound files and videos, collected an aural and visual record for future generations. Above all, this method of working was heartwarming. The collaboration with so many enthusiastic people makes this exhibition a project of many. A comprehensive catalogue accompanies this expo. In it, individual themes such as ‘midwifery in Ypres’, ‘the history of the maternity home’ or ‘from delivery table to maternity bed’ are explored in depth and widely illustrated with archive documents, dozens of photos and personal documents.


Altogether, these are testimonies from some 25 people about giving birth in the Westhoek.

The interviews could be heard in edited form at the exhibition ‘In de Wieg Gelegd- bevallen door de eeuwen heen’, which ran in CC Het Perron in November/December 2021.

Feminist Film Collective Cinemien

Vrouwen van 'Cinemien', in het Filmmuseum © Bertien van Manen, 1981


Eye Filmmuseum

Granted by: 

NWO Museum Grants

At Eye Filmmuseum, Gerdien Smit uses oral history to investigate the early years of Feminist Film Collective Cinemien, which was founded in Amsterdam during the heyday of the second feminist wave.


Cinemien felt there were too few women working in film production, distribution and screening. Through the acquisition and distribution of women’s films, they wanted not only to improve the position of women directors, but also to counterbalance the stereotypical female image in mainstream films, and to help raise awareness of women’s film culture.


The video recordings of the interviews and transcripts will be stored in Eye’s catalog and digital archive, and will be available to all at the Eye Collection Center’s center of excellence, the Eye Study. The recordings will be made public in mid-2024, well before the 50th anniversary in 2025, so that researchers, students, journalists, filmmakers and enthusiasts will have access to new source material for their work.

Women from Reiderland

Idea: Tjerkje Dijkstra

Camera: Truus Hoge-Verheij

Hours of intensive interviews were conducted with women from Reiderland ranging in age from 63 to 88. Conversations that were captured on DVD.


The project recorded their own personal history. A piece of oral history. Small stories that make the known history more complete. Women were especially asked, because very little is known about their lives. The ladies interviewed all still live independently and each has an eventful life behind them, often a life of hard work. These women have a lot of stories to tell.


Reiderland is a former municipality in the Dutch province of Groningen, in the region of the same name, Reiderland. In Reiderland lies the easternmost place in the Netherlands (near the village of Bad Nieuweschans)


Interviews with: Tinke Modderman, Tantje Kuiper, Grietje Stek, Gezien Mellema, Annie Hillinga en Bieuwke Lodewegens


Oldambster agricultural female labourer

In de schuur bijgetimmerde bedsteden, gevuld met stro en een deken. Zaten dikwijls vol met ongedierte als vlooien en muizen (De Lethe, plm. 1900)

We hadden geen keus – interviews met landarbeidsters uit het Oldambt, 1920-1940

Amarens Hibma, Wiebe Hoekstra, Tilly Uil
Publisher: Wolters-Noordhoff, 1987
ISBN: 9789062430703


Nieuwsblad van het Noorden – 1987

In the (Northern) Dutch countryside, agricultural labourers worked from the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century in the Oldambt, that East Groningen clay area that had been emerging from the Dollard bit by bit since the late Middle Ages.


The Oldambtster farmers were prosperous. First, because they constantly acquired new reclaimed marshes through the right of uplift. In the middle of the last century, the Oldambtster arable farmers became gentlemen farmers. However, their servants remained deprived of wealth. The distance between farmer and servant was reinforced by the fact that the staff was tucked away in the back house or lived outside the farmyard. An arable proletariat emerged that managed to overcome its plight situation with the help of major strikes in 1901, 1906, 1919 and 1929.


The social history of Oldambt is widely known but the specific almost feudal-dependent role of women in it long remained underexposed. The booklet “We had no choice” brings that Oldambt woman worker into the limelight. The compilers interviewed 56 very elderly female workers.

The miss from the telephone

De juffrouw van de telefoon

Dr. G. Hogesteeger en drs. R.A. Korving

Waanders, 1993

Telephoning was not possible until the 1950s without the intervention of the switchboard, and the job of telephonist was, indeed, a lady’s trade. ‘A very nerve-racking job’, according to a career choice booklet from the early twentieth century, but not really difficult, and – unlike most administrative professions – free of financial responsibility. So really something for women, who, moreover, did not have to worry about the lack of prospects of promotion opportunities. After all, those who married had to leave; the civil service had no room for married women. In some telephone districts, as soon as they had a boyfriend, women were no longer even allowed to take the first-class telephonist course.


On the other hand, they were reasonably well paid and had a pension attached. ‘In the late 1920s, one of the interviewees in Friesland could earn 20 guilders a month as a qualified teacher, while she received more than four times as much as that as a telephone operator: almost 88 guilders!’


The richly illustrated volume The Miss on the Telephone, to accompany an exhibition of the same name at the Dutch PTT Museum in The Hague (until 13 March 1994). The account is preceded by a scholarly treatise on the credibility of oral history, after which the ex-telephone operators interviewed are given the space to supplement the paper history with recollections from practice.

On your own

Lenie van der Hoorn, in 1985 de eerste officiële winnares, passeert de finishlijn op de Bonkevaart in Leeuwarden. Foto Leo Vogelzang

Op eigen houtje – De ongelooflijke verhalen van vrouwen in de elfstedentocht
Jessica Merkens

Ambo | Anthos uitgevers

ISBN: 9789026360930


Op eigen houtje is about the backward position of women on the ice. The thread running through the revealing book is the history of the Elfstedentocht, a popular festival. But one in which women were not allowed to participate in competition until 1985.

Jessica Merkens bases her research on oral history, visited dozens of former participants or descendants of them.

Indonesian women

Portret van een onbekende Javaanse jonge vrouw, anonymous, 1870-1890

Pamela Pattynama, then a lecturer/researcher at the University of Amsterdam in the Department of Literature Studies specialising in Women’s Studies (later Gender Studies), wanted to speak to people who grew up in the colonial period. She was specifically interested in women’s experiences: they have often walked a very different life path than men, and men are more likely to speak. Participants were selected through family members and acquaintances, and snowballed through the interviewees. She deliberately kept the questions general because she did not want to exclude any themes and was curious to know what the women themselves wanted to talk about.


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1920s – 1989.
They mainly discuss Indonesia, Java and Jakarta, but also other islands and places. Themes include daily life, schooling and exile related to RMS activities.


The collection is managed by Pamela Pattynama. She has a desire to transfer the interviews to an archive in the future.

Mothers of the past

© Karen Juliane / Nationaal Archief / Spaarnestadphoto

© Karen Juliane / Nationaal Archief / Spaarnestadphoto

For a new project commissioned by publisher Ambo Anthos, writer and journalist Truska Bast is looking for women, over seventy, who want to talk candidly about motherhood.


Through their personal stories, she hopes to discover how motherhood has changed, or not. What expectations did these women have before becoming mothers? How were pregnancy and childbirth viewed in their time, and how did they themselves experience it? How did motherhood affect relationships, such as those with their partner, family, friends? How do they look at parenting then and now? What did they do differently from their own mothers, what did they pass on? What did motherhood mean for their education, job, career? And, finally, what if they were allowed to do it all over again?


Narrators should count on two 2-2.5-hour interviews, at their homes (if possible). This is preceded by a short telephone introduction that is non-binding for both parties. This is intended to clarify mutual expectations and to ensure that a variety of women are interviewed in terms of age, family situation, education and background. The final selection is made in consultation with publisher Ambo Anthos.