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History of the
International Women's Contact Amsterdam


Celebrating forty years of understanding and friendship
between women from all parts of the world
Excerpt from a story written for the 40th Lustrum Celebrations held on May 13, 2014
By Wendy van Os, Honorary Member and Past-Chairman




"Where is IWC Amsterdam now,  Forty Years On?
Hopefully we can conclude we’re still going strong. 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 ex-pats 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


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


As IWC Amsterdam celebrates its fortieth anniversary, it’s good to look back at how we started out and how we have developed over forty years.
The idea for an international women’s club was born in the spring of 1973, at a meeting of the ‘Lyceumclub Nederlandse Vrouwen-club’. Mrs. Olga Samkalden, the wife of the then Burgomaster of Amsterdam, had encountered international social clubs when living elsewhere in the Netherlands and was, moreover, aware of the loneliness experienced by foreigners living away from home. The aim was to bring ex-pat women living in Amsterdam in contact with Dutch women, to help them feel more at home and make new friends. Previous attempts had failed, but now the proposal was warmly received and Mrs. Samkalden got the IWC off the ground.
The Lyceumclub Nederlands Vrouwenclub set up an initial meeting at the Van Gogh Museum, assisted by Amsterdam Promotion, an organisation promoting foreign business in Amsterdam. Response was overwhelming. Ladies attended from in and around Amsterdam. The venue for subsequent meetings was the Industrial Club on Dam Square.
In those early days the Vrouwenclub did not have ‘members’ as such. Guests, initially around 50, received an invitation from Amsterdam Promotion to attend a meeting.
By early 1974 there were 300 names on the mailing list, now sent on behalf of International Women’s Contact. Mrs. J. Maestre designed the IWC letterhead, which is still in use today. On 22 April 1974 Mrs. Truus Struyck sent a letter to the ‘guests’ – i.e. potential members – inviting them to attend a business meeting on 7 May at Olga Samkalden’s home, to discuss the draft guidelines for the Club and elect a Board. As only members would have voting rights, ladies were urged to pay their 15 guilders dues in time. Some of those early members continue to enjoy IWC activities. They started out with their infants on their laps and today are proud grandmothers!
And thus the organisation was formalised.
The custom was initiated for the wife of the incumbent Burgomaster of Amsterdam to be IWC Amsterdam’s honorary chairman, the first being Mrs. O.J. Samkalden. After Mr. Samkalden stepped down as Burgomaster of Amsterdam he was succeeded by Mr. Polak and Mrs. Polak ‘did the honours’ in the IWC. She was followed by Mrs. Van Thijn and then by Mrs. Patijn. Subsequent burgomasters’ wives have not taken up the invitation to assume that honorary title and the custom has died out.
The Club currently has a number of honorary members:  ladies who have played a significant role in the IWC over the years: Hannie Huguenin, Martine van Loon, Wendy van Os, Patricia Payman, Kathleen Tan and Denise Werner.  
The function of Chairman of the IWC Amsterdam Board has been fulfilled by:-
  • Truus Struyck            (1974-1976)
  • Martine Delprat          (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-