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Contributions of single, Dutch, immigrant women to GR in late 1800s presented Thursday

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Among the many nationalities that settled in Grand Rapids, the Dutch were well represented. Underrepresented, however, was an historical account of the Dutch women and their contributions to the Grand Rapids area.

Join us this week when author Janet Sjaarda Sheeres presents the historical story of "Single Dutch Immigrant Women and their Work in Grand Rapids, 1880 - 1900." The free presentation begins at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 10 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, 303 Pearl St. NW. Parking is free, too. Find out more here.

During that time more than a century ago, many immigrant women were merely subordinated in the historical records as wives and daughters. But in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, there was a significant number of single adult Dutch women -unmarried or widowed- who made the long journey here to West Michigan and made noteworthy contributions to their new home in the Grand Rapids area community.

Among the 10,640 immigrants from the province of Groningen alone were 791 single women. Who were these women and what work did they engage in? Born in the Netherlands herself, Sheeres researched Dutch sources about the plight of women and their occupations in the Netherlands during that time. She then traced their life stories after they journeyed to Grand Rapids. What were conditions for them in their new homeland?

Sheeres will reflect on how first-generation immigrant Dutch women contributed to their new community as well as what hindered them from engaging fully in the American culture.

 Janet Sjaarda Sheeres has been president of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies, chair of the Christian Reformed Church Historical Committee, and is the associate editor of Origins, the historical magazine of Calvin College’s Heritage Hall Archives. Besides publishing dozens of articles, Sheeres has presented talks dozens more times on Dutch historical and genealogical topics. Her book Son of Secession: Douwe J. Vander Werp rescues a founding father of the Michigan Dutch community from obscurity. Sheeres' presentation on March 10th will do the same for thousands of ordinary Dutch women.

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