The emancipation of the Dutch woman has made a lot of progression during the last century. Women are now actively engaged in the labour market, in sports and in many other places. Polygoon newsreels made a number of reports on women in a man’s world throughout the years. Special in this case is footage of the female aviation pioneer ms. Beppie Versluys. She was the first woman to receive a Dutch pilot license in 1930. In an article in Het Vaderland she talks in detail about her exam and her preparation for her exam. She understands that people might be a little nervous about a female pilot: “It must be an unsafe feeling for many people that their Dutch sky is traversed by not only a woman, but also one of a reckless age.” It wasn’t always easy being a woman during her exam. For example, when she had to fly for an hour at a height of 2000m she had a hard time: “It was very cold and I cried because of the pain in my fingers. (My colleagues probably never did that).” But nevertheless she passed all the tests and qualified as a pilot:
First female Dutch aviator, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.
Ms. Versluys never had the intention to make a profession out of flying. But there were women in the 1930s who started working in professions that were seen as male professions. For example, Dutch women were trained to be a fire fighter. With the impending war they had to be able to take over the work from the men. Even though women weren’t thought to be suitable for the job, this didn’t really matter according to Het Vaderland: “If women are suitable for this job – fighting fire is men’s work – should be disregarded, because there will be no other choice.” Polygoon newsreels filmed a demonstration of the female firefighters of the The Hague fire brigade in 1939. Dressed in firegighter suits the women show among other things how to extuingish a fire:
The women’s fire brigade gives a demonstration, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.
In 1953 the police in Heerlen also had something new, for the first time they started recruiting women to patrol the streets in uniform. According to the Nieuwe Leidsche Courant there tasks would be “monitoring the youth, teaching the youth crossing guards and supervising movie theatres, bars and other amusements.” In the same year Polygoon newsreels went to Heerlen to see the women at work. Besides their normal tasks the report also shows them taking part in lessons in judo to become more resistant:
Patrolling the streets with the female police, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.
A report at the steel company Hoogovens in IJmuiden shows how things have changed in the 1980s. In an industry that was dominated by men for a long time, more and more women were employed. After a training the women could work as crane operator with the same pay and career opportunities as the men in the company: