Year of publication 1994, issue 4

 

Preface

Last year the members of the Board of the Boissevain-Foundation came together three times to discuss all kind of things.

In the back of our mind we have already for a long time the idea to organize a family reunion in the French town of Ber­gerac. In the surroundings of this place in the Dordogne our family has its roots. In our opinion it might be a good idea to taste the atmosphere and wine there and have a look at the tangible memorials (archives, tombstones and estates for instance) of the presence of our ancestors. I suppose that every Boissevain knows that "we" lived there already in the fifteenth century! But then bearing names like Bouyssavy, Boissavin and/or variants on it. Till now it seemed practically impossible for us to make a trip like this in a organi­sed way. But we are very glad that we found a kind of solution. Former chairman of our Board, Ernst (Nederlands Patriciaat, page 111, nr. IXr), did some surveys in the Dordogne area this year and made a lot of notes for us. His daughter and present member of the Board, Anneke, rewrote these notes to a route, that everybody can drive in his own way. You will find it printed in the next Bulletin.

1994 also stood in the sign of our family archive, on which mr. Pechar of the Amsterdam Municipal Archives worked hard last and this year. The members of the Board payed an "inspection visit" to it and we saw it standing there in a perfect condition and with a practical inventory. Ready for use I should say and this also happens increasingly. A recent and conspicuous example is the use of it for an exhibition and book on Mies Boissevain - van Lennep, that was organised and published by the Resistance Museum in the town of Gouda. I can advise you to visit the Municipal Archives once and ask for some old written papers. You will get a lot of interesting things to see! In this Bulletin you will be able to read a small piece of this cake! The enormous variety in material shows that you yourself should not throw away family papers too early. I hope you will find an opportunity to donate them to us.

Another way to help keeping the Boissevain history alive, is by a financial donation. Your Board likes to have some more finan­cial elbow-room, so we will be able to do some more. We also count on you in this! On behalf of the other members of the Board I wish you a lot of readingpleasure with this fourth Bulletin.

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain

Chairman Boissevain-Foundation

 

Motor vessel Boissevain seen from the inside

In Boissevain-Bulletin 1992 Jan Willem and I both wrote something cencerning motor vessel "Boissevain". Jan Willem's story was written against the background of the Stoomvaart Maatschappij (Steamship Company) Nederland and the Koninklijke Pakketvaart Maatschappij (Royal Packet Company), of which Jan Boissevain in 1870 respectively 1888 was cofounder. The undersigned wrote about the Isle of Tristan da Cunha, of which the inhabitants were supplied with food by the aged ship. The importance of this fact led to the issue of a stamp 30 years ago, on which the "Boissevain" has been depicted.

An exhibition and publication on the artist Carol Adolphe Lion Cachet, in 1994 born 130 years ago, put me up to come back to a completely different aspect of this boat. The Maat­schappij Nederland and her daughter companies became famous in the first decennia of this century for the beautiful interiors of the passenger's residences that were designed by Lion Cachet. About his involve­ment in the "Boissevain" tells you the follo­wing article.

In 1929 the showpiece of the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland was finished: the "Oldenbarnevelt". But is was also the year of the catastrophic break down of the New York stock exchange. The depression in trade and shipbuilding also hit the Maatschappij Nederland and the Koninklijke Pakketvaart Maatschappij, where few or no projects were on the stocks. For Lion Cachet a financial uncertain period came ahead, that lasted till 1936.

In this year the KPM took the decision to replace the inade­quate ships on the lines between Asia, Java and Africa by three fast motor vessels with each three screws. The ships were named after Jan Boissevain, Willem Ruys and Petrus Emilius Tegelberg, the three men who decided in 1888 to found the KPM and made a contract with the Dutch government to provide ship connections in the Dutch East Indies.

In this year the KPM took the decision to replace the inadequate ships on the lines between Asia, Java and Africa by three fast motor vessels with each three screws. The ships were named after Jan Boissevain, Willem Ruys and Petrus Emilius Tegelberg, the three men who decided in 1888 to found the KPM and made a contract with the Dutch government to provide ship connections in the Dutch East Indies. Lion Cachet was appointed as advisor of the chief of the shipbuilding department, for the panelling and the design of the passenger's cabins of the three sisterships. He was supervisor of the furnishing of these boots, although the responsibilities differed per ship. The saloons of the "Tegelberg" were designed by himself, while the "Ruys" was done by a furniture company. The "Boissevain" was completely entrusted to Bruno Paul, a designer from Berlin (Germany) with whom Lion Cachet stood in close contact. Lion Cachet sometimes made very detailed proposals for the design of specific parts and also bought materials for the furniture of the ship. For example curtains at the textile company of E.J.F. van Dissel & Co in Eindhoven (Netherlands). Many times both men visited the German warf Blohn & Co in Hamburg (Germany), where the "Boissevain " was build. German artists carried out the lay-out that was given to them. The decoration of the "Boissevain" differed in technique from the one in the "Tegelberg" and the "Ruys". Characteristic were the bright colors and the special attention for the lightning to achieve a perfect harmony. All three ships had a show case made of different types of wood that came from India: ironwood, marawan, camphorwood, bankirai and teak, while on the "Boissevain" also ebony, nani and walikoekoen were used. In these showcases articles from China, India and Africa and object made of Indian kind of woods found their place.

In Lion Cachet's work one can see influences of the Nieuwe Kunst (New Art) and later the Amsterdam School and Art Déco. Yet, his style in a.o. his graphical work, furniture and stamp designs, ceramics and especially his designs for the interiors of prestigious ships has always been independent. His first design for a ship interior was a success immediately and also the following projects in this field were always praised unanimously. In these trumpetblows we can also involve the interiors of the "Boissevain".

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain

Literature:

  • M.S."Boissevain"-M.S."Ruys"-M.S."Tegelberg". Publication K.P.M. Line (Amsterdam/Batavia), 1938.
  • C.A. Lion Cachet, 1864-1945. Publication Drents Museum (Assen) and Museum Boymans-van Beuningen (Rotterdam), 1994.

 

My beloved bedfellow

Gleaning in our family archive

Within a year after his marriage with Marguérite Quien a daughter was born to Gedeon Jeremie Boissevain (Nederlands Patriciaat 1988, page 43, nr. IV). He announced this in the form of a poem, that was found in his inheritance by his son-in-law Carel Faber. The first five translated lines of this poem already give a portrait of the era:

The Arrant Goodness offered me out of the Lap

of my beloved Bedfellow

A fresh Summer off-spring, by praying to the Almighty

So I see my love rewarded

A Pearl added to our Domestic Crown.

 

Famous female Boissevains

Several male Boissevains held prominent positions in our society after 1870. E.g. Jan, Walrave, Charles, Dr.Charles E.H., Gi M., Adolphe and Prof.Dr.Ursul Philip (in "Nederlands Patriciaat 1988", vol 72, mentioned on pages 52, 59, 67, 69, 88, 93 and 130 respectively). A number of spouses of Boissevains played an important role, too. More specifically: in the Netherlands the wife of Dr.Charles E.H.: Marie Pijnappel (page 69) and above all the wife of Jan Canada (his nickname after his native country): Mies (Adrienne Minette) van Lennep (p.56); and in America the two wives of Eugen: Inez Milholland and Edna St.Vincent Millay (p.69). Three of them were outstanding feminists, albeit in very different ways.

Marie Barbera Boissevain-Pijnappel (1870-1950)

was one of the best known suffragettes in the Netherlands. Being a mother of 10 children and adoles­cents didn`t prevent her to be one of the founders of the League for Women Suffrage, of which she became president. After the introduction of women suffrage in 1919 she was asked to become member of parliament. She refused but as number 1 on the list of the Liberal Party she became member of the provincial parliament in North-Holland in which she stayed 20 years until her 69th birthday. With her quiet behavior and business-like argumenta­tion she even converted men to sound feminism! Contrary to her extravert husband Dr.Charles E.H. she was an introvert type, often somewhat stiff. Nevertheless, I remember her in her later years during a radio report as a passionate supporter of the Netherlands soccer team in a match against Belgium.

 

Inez Boissevain-Milholland

(1886-1916)

was a lawyer in New York of partly Scottish partly Irish descent, a well-known feminist and a journalist. Although she proclaimed herself defiantly a socialist and moved in a talented circle of radicals and bohemians in Greenwich Village she lived a highgeared metropolitan, operagoing rich girl’s life, her house always full of men about town and celebrities. During World War I she worked as a war correspondent in Italy, but was expelled because of some unfriendly pacifist articles.

She was best known as a prominent suffragette, but her fanatical activities became fatal to her. Though suffering from serious illness she undertook, in support of a federal suffrage amendment, a tiring tour to the West Coast where there was strong opposition. But she collapsed and died shortly afterwards, barely thirty years of age.

 

Edna St.Vincent Boissevain-Millay

(1892-1950)

Eugen`s second wife, was born in Maine. In college years her heroine was Inez Milholland. Still being a child she hoped to become a pianist but found that her hands were too small. As one of the best known American poets she left an impressive oeuvre. Her first poem was published in a magazine when she was fourteen. For a living she resorted for some time to hackwork for magazines under the name Nancy Boyd.

Nevertheless even before her marriage she produced several books of verse and was awarded the Pulitzer prize. After her marriage she entered on her period of greatest popularity. She was at her best with personal lyrics. However, as she turned increasingly to deal with social conflicts critics became less favorable. In 1940 she made an impassioned effort to arouse Americans from isolationism in "Make Bright the Arrows". In 1942 she wrote the anti-nazi radio play "The Murder of Lidice".

 

Mies (Adrienne Minette) Boissevain-van Lennep (1896-1965)

undoubtedly was the most impressive woman in our family, very active during the thirties, sorely tried in World War II and afterwards again full of sparkling energy. Zest for life, a strong sense of humor and witty remarks were some of her characteristics. With the slogan "Health + Beauty = Zest for Life" she exploited a beauty parlor almost in the attics of the huge house along one of Amsterdam`s canals where she, husband Jan and their 5 children lived until 1939. Women who came to her for treatment obviously didn’t bother to climb four staircases for that purpose. During the same period she became politically active in the feminist movement. She formed a new more active group and drew the public’s attention with her rhymed speeches at meetings and particularly with her witty limericks in the weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer, directed against all sorts of injustices. Renowned became her fierce action against a proposal of the catholic minister Romme who wanted to prohibit female labor which he considered "unnatural" and undesirable in view of the high unemployment ratio.

World War II began to cast its shadows. Mies became involved in receiving Jewish refugees from nazi-Germany and even during the war in safeguarding Jewish children. The war plunged her into deep misery: her two eldest sons Janka and Gi (p.56) were shot dead by nazi executioners, her spouse Jan stayed more than 3 years in concentration camps (Amersfoort, Vught, Sachsenhausen) and finally died in Buchenwald, her youngest son Frans survived the concentration camps Vught and Dachau and she herself survived the concentration camps Vught and Ravensbrück where she was rescued miraculously three times from the lethal gas ovens. Jan had been arrested already in 1941 because of business with a Jewish business man. After a few weeks he was released but shortly afterwards arrested again. The house to which the family moved at the end of 1939 gradually became a center of resistance and sabotage activities, finding hiding places for Jews and other people, providing disguises and fake identification papers. Moreover bombing attacks and similar activities were prepared. The cellar became an arsenal of arms and explosives. As late as 1962 a plumber discovered by accident and to his horror in a tube a quantity of explosives enough to blow up the city of Amsterdam. Janka and Gi were together with others heavily involved. Their group was known as CS-6. It is often thought that the name was taken from the house (Corelli Straat 6), but according to other sources it was the code name for department 6 of the international operating group Center de Sabotage.

In August 1943 the Gestapo struck a heavy blow. Mies and her 3 sons (the 2 daughters were not at home) as well as 70 others were arrested. On October 1 Janka, Gi, cousin Louis (page 128) and 16 other members of the group were shot dead by the nazis in the dunes near Overveen. The night before his execution Janka engraved our family device "Ni regret du passé, ni peur de l`avenir" in the walls of his cell. Mies and son Frans were emprisoned in concentration camp Vught. Mies was employed in the "hospital". As "Zuster Mammie" (nurse Mammie) she became well known to the many prisoners she was able to help. Among them her husband Jan whom she hadn`t seen more than 1 years and my father Bob who arrived in the camp in very poor health after nine months torture and emprisonment in a solitary cell in Scheveningen. In September 1944 the camp was evacuated. Mies was removed to the destruction camp Ravensbrück which was worse than hell. There, too, she took care of sick prisoners but became severely ill herself.

End of April 1945, dangerously ill and weighing only 33 kilogram’s (73 pounds) she was transported to Sweden by the Red Cross. A few months later she was able to return to the Netherlands, physically in somewhat better shape - she had gained 20 kilogram’s (44 pounds) - and above all mentally unbroken, again full of sparkling energy and her old sense of humor. Of course the heavy ordeals and the camp period had left their marks, but also in a positive way. She had experienced the solidarity among fellow women prisoners as a valuable asset and she tried to translate this into various original ideas, although not always with lasting success. One of her ideas was that specific female influence in public life was needed. As this couldn’t be realized by mere female input to the traditional political parties she founded a women’s party called "Praktisch Beleid" (Practical Policy), based on unanimity in all classes of our society. Once again she used witty limericks to gain publicity. However, most voters considered this idealistic concept too vague and elections were a flop.

Another idea based on the experience of unity against a background of female variety was the "Nationale Feestrok" (National Festive Skirt). During her emprisonment she once got a shawl, made out of pieces of cloth, rags, garments of relatives and friends, arousing cherished memories. Hence the idea that every woman should wear a colourful skirt, made from many pieces of cloth connected with strong emotional feelings, embroidered with names and other data. Each woman would have a unique skirt - a typical female garment - yet symbolizing unity in variety. And they should wear the skirt particularly on national commemoration days. Even a festive skirt song was written and composed. To promote the skirt Mies travelled all along the Netherlands and even went to the United States. American papers wrote enthusiastic articles. But the whole idea was soon forgotten.

Mies Boissevain-van Lennep was a unique woman. In the spring of 1994 an exhibition called "Heden, Verleden, Blijmoedig gedragen" (Present, Past, Cheerfully born) was dedicated to her life in the Zuidhollands Verzetsmuseum in Gouda, Netherlands. In 1995 - 50 years after the end of World War II - this fascinating exhibition can be seen in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Robert Lucas (Bob) Boissevain (page 74, Nederlands Patriciaat 1988)

Sources:

  • Notable American Women, a biographical dictionary;
  • Els Meulendijks: "Heden, Verleden, Blijmoedig gedragen", mentioning a number of other writings;
  • Personal memories.