The female hero

Wendy Janssen . De vrouwelijke held. In Wim Willems & Jaap de Moor (red.), Het Einde van Indië: Indische Nederlanders tijdens de Japanse bezetting en de dekolonisatie.
Sdu Uitgeverij, 1995


PhD research on identification processes in a postcolonial context; a study of intergenerational transmission among three generations of women of Indian background.


Wendy Janssen was a PhD student at the Belle van Zuylen Institute for Multicultural Gender Studies where Selma Leydessdorff was director. She wanted to investigate how narratives are passed on within families, and how different generations view their families’ reception in the Netherlands and their place in society over the years. Questions included: How are you seen? How do you see yourself? And how do you deal with that?


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1920s – 1996.
They mainly discuss Indonesia and the Netherlands. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, arrival and reception in the Netherlands, identity, Dutch society, positioning, adaptation.


Management: The collection is managed by Wendy Janssen.
Preservation: The collection is on cassette tapes. To preserve the interviews permanently for the future digitisation and transfer to an e-depot is desirable.

The Ranchi Babies

On the way from Indonesia to the Netherlands, 37 babies are born on steamship Ranchi. It is 1950: Indonesia has just gained independence. KNIL soldiers and their families had to leave the country in a hurry by ship. They had often lived in the colony of the Dutch East Indies for generations and many of them had never been to the Netherlands. In the podcast The Ranchi Babies – a colonial legacy, Joost Wilgenhof tracks down all the ‘Ranchi Babies’; they are now in their seventies. He delves into their family history and the fraught colonial legacy their parents gave them. What are they stuck with?


Wilgenhof also follows historian Esther Captain, who was commissioned by the Dutch government to help research Independence, decolonisation, violence and war in Indonesia. Esther finds herself caught up in a debate resembling trench warfare and confronted with her family history.


Passengers steamship Ranchi, including ‘Ranchi Babies’ and their relatives with Indian, Javanese and German-Chinese backgrounds, among others

Genesis, objective and/or main question: The project started with the discovery of a photograph of the arrival of the steamship Ranchi, departing for the Netherlands from Indonesia in August 1950. Passengers are KNIL soldiers with their families. After a month, the ship arrives in Amsterdam. In the meantime, 37 babies have been born. An exhibition at Museum Perron Oost (Amsterdam) (with partner International Institute of Social History (IISG)) prompted documentary maker Joost Wilgenhof to go in search of these ‘Ranchi babies’. He made five audio portraits that have been published on Museum Perron Oost’s website. He then worked on a six-part podcast series. The podcast is a production of Stichting Autres Directions and Aldus’ for NTR and NPO Radio 1 and co-sponsored by the NPO Fund and the Fonds Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten.


The main questions are: How did your parents end up in Indonesia and what do you know about it? How did it affect the family? How did the family fare in the Netherlands? What stories did you get from your parents and how do you deal with them? Photos were also issued for some interviews. Joost Wilgenhof continues to search for descendants of the ‘Ranchi Babies’, including the third generation. In addition to the audio portraits and podcast series, he is working on a book of stories from those involved.

The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1920s – present.
They mainly focus on Indonesia and the Netherlands. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, migration to the Netherlands, migration to the United States, colonial legacy.


Management: The collection is managed by Joost Wilgenhof. He wishes to transfer the interviews to an archive such as the IISH in the future.

Accessibility: The collection has limited public access. The rights for use lie partly with Joost Wilgenhof, partly with the producer of the podcast. If interested, please contact Autre Directions Foundation:


Preservation: The collection has been digitised. To preserve the digital files permanently for the future, transfer to an e-depot is desirable.

Between Tompouce and Baklava


‘Between Tompouce and Baklava’ explores how Turkish guest workers experienced life in the Netherlands: How did it feel to emigrate to an ‘unknown’ country? What were the setbacks? What is now typically Dutch about them? What values did they appropriate from Dutch culture? What life lessons did they learn? Recording and sharing these unknown migration stories creates new connections and dialogues between different (generations of) Amsterdammers. ‘Between Tompouce and Baklava’ is a multidisciplinary project recording and sharing the stories of first-generation Turkish guest workers through a portrait video series and a documentary, involving 10 families, different parties, 80 schoolchildren and different neighbourhoods.


Emin Batman had started his project Between Tompouce and Baklava to capture gripping stories of Turkish guest workers in the Amsterdam port. His father stayed as an undocumented guest worker in the flat affected by the Bijlmer disaster. Then he was officially allowed to stay. That intrigued Emin Batman, who was later born in Amsterdam. “How would my life have been different? What are all these other migrant stories?” In his project, he spoke to 43 guest workers. How can you connect those stories with information from archives, other (museum) collections so that these stories get their deserved place in the city’s history and can contribute to a better understanding of migrants in the city? That is where the Amsterdam Time Machine (Boudewijn Koopmans, UvA) and UvA students have helped.”

Mama read Marx


Elke Weesje researched the experiences of those who, born between 1937-1952, grew up in a communist nest in the shadow of World War II and the Cold War. She makes clear the emotional rollercoaster in which communists and those close to them were caught, having first survived persecution during World War II, then enjoyed great popularity because of their consistent resistance, which, however, turned into aversion and suspicion within three years under the influence of the Cold War. With the Russian invasion of Hungary in 1956 as a tragic low point.


During her internship at the IISG, supervised by Margreet Schrevel, Weesjes came into contact with the history of Dutch communism and spoke to children who grew up in a communist family largely after World War II. She became fascinated by this second generation, which sought a path between the loyalty and admiration for their emotionally wounded communist parents, and the repulsion and hostility from society towards their parents that also radiated onto the children.


Weesje previously wrote an English-language dissertation in which she compared the experiences of the ‘cradle communist’, the children of communists in the Netherlands and Britain. Based on a series of interviews with 38 children of working-class rank-and-file members of the Dutch and British communist party. A relevant study that offers insight into how, in particular, the experiences of a Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, which never took place in England, influenced the different dealings with and positions of communists in both countries. Weesjes then decided to write a more accessible book, written in Dutch, in which she focused on the Dutch experience. This was a good choice, as it offers more space to place her interlocutors’ statements within their life stories and within the way communism was dealt with in the Netherlands during the Cold War.


Oral History offered her the opportunity to illuminate this history from a non-institutional perspective (of the child). Relevantly, after the first series of interviews, she returned to a number of interlocutors some 20 years later. She indicates that these then had more space or were better able to look back critically, although we don’t see much of that in her book. This is a shortcoming, as the book would have gained strength if Weesjes had mobilised more opposing voices from children of the time who – sooner or later – distanced themselves from communist ideology and criticised their communist parents’ upbringing.


The history of the Turkish and Moroccan women’s movement in 40 stories

In 1975, the first Turkish women’s association was founded in the Netherlands, the HTKB (Hollanda Türkiye Kadinlar Birligi). The first Moroccan women’s association MVVN (Marokkaanse Vrouwen Vereniging Nederland) followed in 1982. Both national organisations campaigned for equal rights. In 1987, together with other organisations, they founded the Komitee Zelfstandig Verblijfsrecht voor migrant women, which began a long struggle to get migrant women’s dependent residence rights off the table. Other key concerns were fighting prejudice and stereotypes about foreign women and standing up for the right to education. The organisations also organised language classes and thematic meetings for women.


Self-organisations received (modest) subsidies from the state and municipalities in the 1980s and 1990s. Later, the (state) subsidies were deemed undesirable because they would hinder integration. This made their continued existence difficult. The HTKB was eventually disbanded in 1995. Its main tasks were taken over by the Amsterdam branch. The MVVN still officially exists, but is not very active. This is not to say that Turkish and Moroccan women no longer unite. In many multicultural neighbourhoods in the Netherlands, there are organisations of women who voluntarily work to improve the quality of life in their neighbourhoods, offer support to people who are struggling and organise numerous thematic meetings.


With the project the History of the Turkish and Moroccan women’s movement in 40 stories, the BMP foundation/ the Hub ‘Sprekende geschiedenis’ aims to:


Conduct 40 oral history interviews with women who are (have been) involved in the Turkish and Moroccan women’s movement over the past 47 years.
Work with them to create a digital exhibition and organise a live programme to present this history in neighbourhoods and districts to a diverse audience.
Develop educational activities to engage wider local and national audiences with the stories and history of Turkish and Moroccan women in the Netherlands.

The project started in June 2023 with a preparatory phase in which a literature review is conducted, pilot interviews are held and a Steering Committee for the project is formed. The total duration of the project is one and a half years.




No more secrets

Number of interviews: 15

Transcripts: for some of the interviews

Storage: in due course

Graduate research on the stories of descendants of (grand)fathers with a fraught war past.

Analysis of different forms of representation in which involved respondents relayed their family war history and its significance for their family memory and in the public domain.


The Dutch home birth culture




Creators: Jet Homoet en Ane C.Ose


The project is taking place under the umbrella of the Foundation Ziezo:



The life stories, the oral history, of the midwives, maternity nurses and gynaecologists give an insight into who and what formed them, how they came to choose their profession and what experiences they had in practising it. The story is told from the perspective of personal experience, allowing us to understand them both in their actions and in their emotional lives. The collected stories give an insight into our home birth culture.


Why this project?

  • Giving birth to your child at home, in your own familiar surroundings; in the Netherlands that is a real option for most women. And still is. Because the percentage of women who give birth at home has fallen dramatically in 30 years, from 35% in 1990 to 13% in 2020.
  • Birth care in the Netherlands is unique; care providers from all over the world come here to see how we do it – with those strong midwives and tough women.
  • 6 November 2021 The Dutch home birth culture was given official status as Intangible Heritage.
  • Inextricably linked to our history, it arose and is rooted in a culture of ‘just act normal’ and no fuss, and is based on the premise that women decide for themselves where and how they want to give birth.
  • Due to a wide range of causes and far-reaching reforms in birth care, home birth is under pressure. How do midwives, maternity nurses and gynaecologists see the future of home birth?


1954: Call the midwife: Apprentice midwife on bicycle to childbirth. In background the Nursery School for Midwives in Camperstraat, the side facade in Ruijschstraat can be seen.

Only in the Netherlands is a pregnant woman asked whether she wants to give birth at home or in hospital.

OH-SMArt – Oral History Stories at the Museum around Artworks

Funded by:




More information:



dr. Sanneke Stigter

Oral History – Stories at the Museum around Artworks’ (OH-SMArt) is a long term initiative to significantly improve the digital research chain around using Oral History and spoken narratives, with research into artworks and museums as a use case.


Museums have to contend with a serious shortage of digital tools. Additionally, the procedures applied to make recordings of spoken stories about art available are very time-consuming. This is partly due to a lack of applicability and compatibility of technical tools, and to the sometimes highly sensitive information involved. As a result, a considerable backlog has arisen in the processing of this archive material, which is, in fact, a familiar problem within Oral History research.


The OH-SMArt project aims to significantly improve the digital research chain around Oral History. For example, recordings will be directly connected to an automatic time-coded speech transcription service, which will facilitate the unlocking and archiving of spoken stories about art, as well as automatic searching and linking. In addition to improving the workflow, new tools will be developed that are aimed at promoting reflection: user interpretations will be saved with the source material,  as a result of which the viewpoint of the researcher will be put into perspective. OH-SMArt will provide access behind the scenes at museums in a smart and accessible manner and contribute to the improvement of research within Oral History in general.


OH-SMArt is a collaboration between the University of Amsterdam, University of Twente, DANS-KNAW, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Stichting Open Spraaktechnologie (Open Speech Technology Foundation), and participating museums and institutions. The project will be financed until the end of 2024 via the Platform for Digital Infrastructure for Social Sciences and Humanities (Platform Digitale Infrastructuur voor Sociale en Geesteswetenschappen, PDI-SSH)



OH-SMArt curator interview Foto: © Marjon Gemmeke

Pink life stories

Based on a number of conversations, volunteers take the time to write down their story in book form – supplemented with photos and other memorabilia – together with the homosexual older person.


In the end, the narrators themselves decide what will be in their book of life. Of course the narrator will receive a copy, as will IHLIA and De Rietvinck, which will add the book to its collection.


Special stories


The aim of the collection, however, is not only that current and future generations can get to know these extraordinary stories, but also that the storyteller can tell her or his life story – often for the first time – and get recognition for it. That is why the books were officially presented and handed over in several rounds.


With the help of various grants and many volunteers, IHLIA has now been able to turn 43 stories into a beautiful book.

Cerita Cisca – encounter with history

In 10 episodes, you will listen to moments from the life of Cisca Pattipilohy, who, as a 95-year-old, looks back on various periods in her life. Periods that were partly marked by the great line of history and the various cultural transitions she experienced.

She looks back on Apartheid in the colony of the Dutch East Indies, her student days, the Proklamation and the optimism and dynamism of the young Republic of Indonesia. She also talks about her family and the great importance of women’s emancipation.


Cisca was born in 1926 in Makasar as the only daughter of Moluccan Bandanese parents in a family with three brothers. She grew up within the hierarchical structure of the colonial society with an exceptional father who, as an ‘inlander’ – an inhabitant of the indigenous group that was on the lowest rung in his own country within the apartheid society – managed to acquire his own business and a position that allowed him to send his children to study in the Netherlands, where he had to pay triple the amount of a Dutch inhabitant. Studying in the Netherlands, Cisca saw that the Dutch did ordinary work here, something that was unthinkable in the class society of the Dutch East Indies colony.