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History of the
International Women's Contact Amsterdam


Olga Samkalden (1910-2003) - Founder of IWC Amsterdam

Through the initiative of Mrs. Olga J. Samkalden–Meijers, wife of the Burgemeester (Mayor) of Amsterdam, the International Women’s Contact had its introduction to the foreign or non-Dutch community of women residents in and around the Amsterdam area.  It was during a Jubilee lunch of the Lyceumclub Nederlandse Vrouwenclub in the spring of 1973 when Mrs. Samkalden put forward the idea of doing something to bring foreign women residing in Amsterdam into contact with Dutch women and other women of various nationalities.  The idea took root and, together with Amsterdam Promotion, an organisation for promoting foreign business in Amsterdam, the Lyceumclub Nederlandse Vrouwnclub organised a first meeting in May 1973 – at a preview of the new Van Gogh Museum.  There was an overwhelming response and the IWC, International Women’s Contact was born.


An article appeared in “Holland Today” which gives a good indication of the scope and aims of IWC at the time of our birth as a club.  Under the title ‘IWC – a global group”, it ran as follows:-

“The women come from more than 15 countries of all sizes – on every continent – from sunny Caribbean climes and frozen northern tundra; from land-locked mountain nations and multi-island republics.  They speak English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian and every European tongue.  Despite their diverse backgrounds, these ladies have one very important thing in common.  As members of the International Women’s Contact, they share in a special Dutch hospitality”.


Another article appeared in the Amsterdam newspaper De Telegraf, pointing out that IWC as intended as a meeting point for many women such as the wives of business directors, consuls university staff, doctors, etc. who have a need to meet each other.  At that time the late Mrs. G.P. Dressman-Peek was the President of the Lyceumclub and strongly supported Mrs. Samkalden-Meijers in her new venture.


A ‘home’ – meeting place – was necessary and the first meeting of IWC took place in Mrs. Samkalden’s home on the Herengracht at the official residence of the Burgemeester of Amsterdam, and later at the Industrial Club on the Dam.  Monthly meetings were organized, for example talks on “Child Care in the Netherlands” and “Who is Who in International Relations” and a visit as made to one of the old “hidden” churches in Amsterdam – Our Dear Lord in the Attic.


At that time the Japanese economy was expanding and many businessmen were coming to the Netherlands, most of them living in the Amstelveen area.  Thus the young IWC was able to offer support to their wives who came from an entirely different culture.


By 1978 the IWC had proven to be a strong and flourishing club when a group of ladies in The Hague wished to found a “sister” club with the same purpose but with the addition of The Hague in the official name.  As a result, at a general meeting of IWC held in Deceber that year, the Board was authorised to have the addition of ‘Amsterdam’ included in our name in the Regulations and this was certified by a Dutch lawyer.  Thus there existed two clubs – IWC Amsterdam and IWC The Hague, each with the same aims and having friendly contact, but working independently of each other.  


The Club currently has a number of honorary members - ladies who have played a significant role in the IWC over the years. They are

Martine van Loon-Labouchere, Wendy van Os, Patricia Payman, Kathleen Kimiyo Tan-Doy and Denise Werner.  

The function of Chairman of the IWC Amsterdam Board has been fulfilled by:-
  • Truus Struyck - (1974-1976)
  • Martine Delprat-Labouchere (van Loon) - (1976-1978)
  • Alicia Bradburn -  (1978-1979)
  • Diane Hible - (1979-1981)
  • Hannie Huguenin - (1981-1982)
  • Patricia Trel - (1982-1984)
  • Isabelle Sanders - (1984-1985)
  • Marianne Gurke-Vinke - (1985-1988)
  • Patricia Payman - (1988-1991)
  • Wendy van Os - (1991-1993)
  • Pearl Casteleyn - (1993-1996)
  • Rachel Hardy - (1996-1999)
  • Marga Zala - (1999-2001)
  • Nelleke Vatri - (2001-2003)
  • Nelly Pels - (interim 2003)
  • Marian Voorhoeve - (2003-2005)
  • Winnifred Sarre - (2005-2007)
  • Sylvia Kronheim - (2007)
  • Toma Haines - (2007-2008)
  • Emilie Milders - (2008-2009)
  • Angela Hofmeister - (2009-2010)
  • Madeleine Kniese - (2010-2012)
  • Mieky Crabtree - (2012-2013)
  • Betsie du Plessis - (2013-2014)
  • Lidy Grisel - (2014-2017)
  • Valerie van der Meulen-Sheppard - (2017-2020)
  • Marlène van IJsselstein - (2020 - )
"Over the years the Club has had its ups and downs, but it is, as ever, a true lifeline for many of us who have travelled, or are still travelling around the world. Culture changes and culture shock make it essential for expats to find a welcoming ambience, with people who help them ease their way into their new environment. We celebrate, commemorate and commiserate with one another.
Our focus may shift, our interests change, but the ‘raison-d’être’ of the IWC is and will always be to promote understanding and friendship between women from all parts of the world." 
~ Wendy van Os, Honorary Member