Hilda Verwey-Jonker Street, Henny Langeveld Street, Willemijn van der Goot Way, Jannie Sanders-Woudstra Court and Brigitte van der Werf Way – soon these streets, in the Zestienhoven neighbourhood in Overschie, will be added to Rotterdam’s street plan. The streets are part of the Park 16Hoven project and will be named after the aforementioned female academics because of Cora Boele.

Boele received the request for input from the chair of Rotterdam’s street names committee, Jantje Steenhuis. “She asked if I could come up with a few suggestions for scientists. So I started looking for some Rotterdam-based pioneers.” All five of the women were affiliated with Erasmus University in some way and were pioneers – for instance, because they were the first woman to be awarded a doctorate, the first woman to be appointed professor, or the first woman to be granted an honorary doctorate.

Honorary doctorate

The municipal government’s publication, which published the street names committee’s official decision on the street names, provides concise biographies for all persons who will have a street named in their honour. Boele helped draw up the biographies. Hilda Verwey-Jonker was a politician representing the Sociaal-Democratische Arbeiderspartij (SDAP), which later became the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA). She was the first woman in the Netherlands to graduate with a degree in sociology, and in 1978 she was the first woman to receive an honorary doctorate from Erasmus University.

Henny Langeveld was the first woman to be appointed professor at the Netherlands School of Economics, which later became Erasmus University, in 1968.Willemijn van der Goot was the first woman to be awarded a doctorate by another EUR predecessor, the Netherlands School of Commerce. EUR’s Van der Goot Building was also named after her. Jannie Sanders-Woudstra was the first female full professor at the Sophia Children’s Hospital. Brigitte van der Werf was the first female full professor at Rotterdam’s Faculty of Medicine.

Boele submitted the nominations in 2019, when she still worked at Erasmus University. “Initially they were on a list of reserve names. At the time there weren’t any places available where the names would fit in. Then they came up with the idea of constructing new streets in Overschie, in a neighbourhood where several scientists had already had streets named after them (including Rotterdam’s own Nobel laureate Jan Tinbergen – ed.). These names were a perfect match,” said the secretary of the street names committee, Freek Kilsdonk.

Uncharted territory

According to Boele, it takes a fair bit to get a street named after you. “Your behaviour must have been impeccable and you must have been dead for at least ten years. That’s when you become eligible.” All five of Boele’s submissions were approved. Kilsdonk said that the street names committee also acted in accordance with a proposal passed by Rotterdam’s municipal council three years ago to ensure that street names become more diverse. “More women and more people from a migrant background.”

Boele loves that she was allowed to contribute to Rotterdam’s street plan. She thinks it is an ‘aftertaste’ of the work she did at Erasmus University and has actually visited the place where the streets will be erected soon. “I’m from Blijdorp, so when you cycle there, you pass through Tinbergen Lane. The place is still uncharted territory. The first pile has yet to be driven. But the streets named after the EUR ladies will be in a small neighbourhood. A school will be constructed there, as well, and a small mall. It’s kind of special, really.”