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our history 

The 1920s and Our Founders 

In 1927 two young American women in Amsterdam, Helena Goldschmidt and Carolyn Korthals Altes, decided with three of their friends, Florence Hartog, Mama Klatte and Muriel Hamers, to form a club. After some discussion they asked four others to join them: Edna Perk, Dorothy Beenhouwer, Mrs. Hulswit and Mrs. Barjones (the Portuguese consul's wife). They chose the name of "Current Events Club," set an initiation fee of 85 cents, annual dues of Dfl.2,50 and created an American home away from home. Florence Hartog was the first president. During their informal biweekly teas at members' homes, they discussed current events, exchanged English books and magazines and took turns giving ten-minute talks on art, travel and music. The Club flourished and expanded.

In 1928 Mrs. Charles Hoover, wife of the first U.S. Consul General, became the first honorary president. That year saw the drafting of a constitution and by-laws. The Current Events Club of the middle 1930s was, as at its beginning, a group of unusually capable and talented women who directed their energy toward well-balanced social, intellectual and cultural pursuits. At this time, the idea of culture shock was not a public concept, but it certainly must have been a fact of life to the early American settlers here.

In 1937, the Club had its first member whose husband was also American, giving her fewer ties to Holland. In addition to regulars, the Club was augmented temporarily by American guests staying at the Amstel Hotel and by a number of refugee women of American nationality who were waiting in the hotel for papers.

The War Years: 1940s

1940 brought the beginning of a black period for all of Western Europe. Since the invasion of Poland in 1939, American wives had been faced with a dilemma: to stay abroad where war was certain to come or to return to the United States, leaving a Dutch husband behind.

Those who stayed could not have envisioned what was ahead. In the early days of the occupation, the first concern of the Club was for those most vulnerable, the Jewish members. Husbands were being imprisoned, sons were sent to work in Germany and children went out on dangerous missions to deliver underground newspapers. Those who were not detained as prisoners or hostages lived in fear, so that every home had a hiding place for its men. People left windows and skylights open so that fugitives could escape, either from or to their homes.

Hardship and uncertainty had come for everyone. In addition to fear and worry, physical discomfort became excruciating. There were increasing scarcities of food, fuel, electricity and transportation; no private telephones or radios; at the worst, even water was rationed to two buckets a day. People were reduced to eating flower bulbs. At night clandestine excursions were made to chop down trees for fuel. Going to bed at sundown was a common way of keeping warm and among those who braved the cold to stay up, one of the group pedaled a stationary bicycle in the living room to provide light from its dynamo. Women cut up old tablecloths for diapers and nightgowns for children. A patient might be taken to the hospital by sled because there were no taxis.

This picture of the anxieties and hardships of the war years comes from our own early members. It is their story. What they don't talk about is their own courage and endurance, which kept them going. During these years some twenty members attended meetings, and the Club was a veritable lifeline, which they maintained with difficulty and risk.

In 1943 an American B-17 with a crew of ten crashed near the village of Opijnen (read more about this story and the AWCA's involvement here). The eight who died were buried by the villagers, who have been taking care of their graves ever since. AWCA members Virginia Delgado and Betty van Maanen were instrumental in organizing annual memorial services for the eight American airmen. When liberation finally came, it was bittersweet for those whose families who would never return.

By 1945 the Netherlands was devastated, and even five years after the end of the war, the development of Western Europe was a quarter of a century behind that of the United States. In the difficult postwar period, Club members continued to hold meetings now at the home of the Consul General.


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