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Writer-in-Residence (1 February 2002 - 30 June 2002)
I came to NIAS in February 2002 to work on a biography of Sjoukje Bokma-de Boer, who became a famous writer of children's books under the penname Nienke van Hichtum in the first half of the twentieth century.
During my stay I read and entered a lot of material I had collected over the last years into a rough draft of the book I hope to have finished by the end of 2002. This material included: letters, amongst which the correspondence between Sjoukje and her husband Pieter Jelles Troelstra, the leader of the Dutch labour movement, brochures, articles about youth literature and about socialism; material from various archives in Friesland, from the Letterkundig Museum, the Internationaal Informatiecentrum en Archief voor de Vrouwenbeweging (IIAV) and the International Institute of Social History (IISG), books about socialism and its ideals about rearing and educating children, books on illness, feminism, literature and other subjects that were of importance in Western Europe in the 1900s.
A biography is neither a scientific nor a scholarly piece of work. It is, in my view, a form of journalism. Therefore I have never considered having hypotheses, theories, research aims, or any of those other ingredients necessary for good scientific research for my biography. It will be a good piece of journalism: an interesting subject that is well documented and researched, and that is, of course, well-written.
This does not mean that I wanted to remain on the surface of my subject. By using what I have read and thought about over the last five months at NIAS I will be able to conjure up and present a more complex image of a certain period, of the social, literary and pedagogical aspects of the time, of a woman who lived very close to the centre of these social movements, a woman who wrote a few wonderful children's books and who finally had many intelligent things to say about this particular genre.
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