Willemijn Hendrika (Lilian) Posthumus-van der Goot, (1897-1989)

Alec Badenoch

Willemijn Hendrika Posthumus-van der Goot was a Dutch feminist and economic historian, and head of women’s radio programming at the Algemeene Vereeniging Radio Omroep (AVRO) from 1936-1952.  She was born in Pretoria, South Africa and raised in the then-Dutch colony of Indonesia, where her father was  an engineer, before moving to Geneva and then the Netherlands for her education.  The first woman to receive a PhD in economics in the Netherlands (1930) with a dissertation on spending in household economics, she was drawn into women’s organizations by the famous Dutch feminist Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929), and over the course of the 1930s grew ever more actively into a feminist, and in particular campaigner for the right of women to work.  Together with Rosa Manus (1881-1943), another veteran of the international women’s movement, and the historian Johanna Naber, she founded the archives of the international women’s movement 1935 (today the Atria Institute for Gender Equality and Women’s History) in Amsterdam. 

She became the head of women’s programmes at the AVRO in 1936, where she was most famous for the programme A short chat from woman to woman (Een kort gesprek van vrouw tot vrouw), a five-minute programme that ran throughout the whole of her tenure at the AVRO (with a break between 1941 and 1945 during the Nazi occupation).  She herself survived war and Nazi occupation, having shielded Jewish children in Amsterdam, but the archives she co-founded were confiscated in 1940 and then-president Rosa Manus was arrested, deported and murdered.  Van der Goot became president of the archives and worked slowly to rebuild them.  She also worked swiftly to regain her position in broadcasting, which she did in 1946, until she stepped down in 1952.  Starting in 1949, and inspired in part by wartime BBC broadcasts by Olive Shapely, she took steps to start an international body for women who worked in radio.  Making contacts (among many others) with Dorothy Moore Lewis, the coordinator of US broadcasts for the United Nations, Catherine King of the ABC (Australia), Janet Quigley of the BBC and Gabriele Strecker of the Hessischer Rundfunk, she was instrumental in founding the International Association of Women in Radio (IAWR – T for Television was added in 1959), for which she served as co-president until 1956.

Lilian van der Goot’s work at the IAWRT and beyond was characterized by international organizing, and particularly in facilitating contacts between women, which she believed was key to creating world peace.  This is evident in her published works, including the 1948 edited collection Van moeder op dochter, Het aandeel van de vrouw in een veranderende wereld  (From mother to daughter: the role of the woman in a changing world; Leiden: Brill; revised reprints in 1968 and 1977) documenting the Dutch women’s movement and  Vrouwen vochten voor de vrede (Women fought for peace, Arnhem : Van Loghum Slaterus, 1961).  In 1967 she founded the International Scientific Institute for Feminine Interpretation (ISIFI) within the International Peace Research Organisation.   In 1982 she was made an officer in the Order of Oranje-Nassau for services in the international women’s movement.

A full scholarly biography of Lilian van der Goot is currently being written by Antia Wiersma (Royal Netherlands Historical Society/RU Groningen)

Further resources:

Overview and catalogue of her archive with short biographical entry (in Dutch) at Atria

Biography (Dutch) http://socialhistory.org/bwsa/biografie/goot

Personal archive with short biographical entry (Dutch): https://www.atria.nl/search/collection/bio/show/3902

Biographical profile(in Dutch) by Mineke Bosch in the Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland: http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/vrouwenlexicon/lemmata/data/Goot

See also:

Kristin Skoog and Alexander Badenoch “Networking women: The International Association of Women in Radio and Television,” J. Medhurst, S. Nicholas and T. O’Malley (eds) Broadcasting in the UK and US in the 1950s: Historical Perspectives, (Cambridge Scholars Press 2016) 189-218

Zaal, M. (1992) ‘Van vrouw tot vrouw: de vrouwenrubrieken van de AVRO onder leiding van dr. W.H. Posthumus-van der Goot, 1936-1952’ [From woman to woman: women’s programmes of the AVRO under the leadership of Dr W.H. Posthumus-van der Goot, 1936-1952] Masters (Doctoraal) Thesis, Leiden University

One response to “Willemijn Hendrika (Lilian) Posthumus-van der Goot, (1897-1989)

  1. Pingback: BBC World Service’s new all-female programme | Women's Radio in Europe Network (WREN)

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