On this day in Dutch history
On the 21st of May 1995, Annie M.G. Schmidt died. Schmidt was a very wellknown Dutch author, known for poems, children’s books, plays and television series.
Schmidt was born on the 20th of May 1911 in Kapelle in Zeeland, and worked as a librarian in Amsterdam and Vlissingen. After World War II she started working as an editor at Het Parool, a newspaper in Amsterdam. From 1950 on she was in a relationship with Dick van Duijn and had a son with him, Flip.
While she worked at Het Parool she joined comedy troupe De Inktvis (The Squid), along with some other Parool employees. The M.G. in her name were added to differentiate her from A. Schmidt, who wrote comedy for Wim Kan, Wim Sonneveld and Conny Stuart.
Schmidt became known for her radio plays, the first being In Holland Staat Een Huis (In Holland There’s A House), which is also the first line of an old Dutch nursery rhyme. The radio play is about the Average Family, and occasionally the free-spirited Schmidt used ruder language than was considered acceptable.
She then started writing the text for the first Dutch musical, Heerlijk Duurt Het Langst (a pun on the saying ‘Eerlijk Duurt Het Langst’, Honesty will bring you further), with Harry Bannink doing the songs. She worked with Bannink again in 1966 on the popular television series Ja Zuster, Nee Zuster (Yes Nurse, No Nurse), about a small old people’s home, their Nurse Klivia and the grumpy neighbour and landlord, both of whom want the old people evicted. After the success of the first musical and the television show, many more musical and plays followed.
In between the writing of these musicals, Schmidt also worked on her chldren’s books. She wrote most of these between 1950 and 1989. Some of the most wellknown are Jip and Janneke, a series about a boy and a girl who live next to each other and have adventures. This series won her the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1988. There’s also Abeltje, a boy who works as an elevator operator in a large department store. One day he presses the forbidden button, and the elevator shoots out of the department store and to several places around the world.
In Minoes, a cat suddenly turns into a young woman and has to get used to the human world now that she’s no longer a cat, and uncovers the secret of a factory on the edge of town. Minoes, Abeltje and several other stories of Schmidt have been turned into successful films over the years. For most of her books, she worked with illustrator Fiep Westendorp.
In 1991, she stopped writing. By then she was also almost completely blind. In 1994 she had a fall, and required a hip operation and needed a long time to recover. As her partner Dick had died in 1981, Schmidt decided to make arrangements for her own death, and discussed euthanasia options with her physician. She requested that Harry Bannink do the music for her funeral, a classic medley of their songs. Schmidt died the morning after her 84st birthday.
(Above: Annie M.G. Schmidt’s grave in Amsterdam.)