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A quick call with Nadine Akkerman about the Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture: ‘I feel a connection with Annie’

Each year on or around International Women’s Day, the university hosts the Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture. You are welcome to attend − even if you wouldn't call yourself a feminist, says professor and organiser Nadine Akkerman. ‘You get the best discussions with a diverse audience.’

Hi Nadine, you’ve been chair of the committee that organises the Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture since December. Why were you keen to take on this role?

‘I do a lot of research on women in history and literature. That’s been an important topic for me ever since I was a student. So when I was asked to take over as chair, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. It is a special lecture that ties in completely with my interests and it’s named after Annie Romein-Verschoor too.’

Do you have a special connection with Annie?

‘I wouldn’t dare compare myself with Annie, but I do feel a connection with her. She studied literature and history and wrote her dissertation about female Dutch novelists. And she worked for the feminist monthly Opzij. I devoured that magazine as a student. Another coincidence: Annie died in the year I was born.’

This year’s lecture is being given by Hester den Ruijter, Professor of Cardiovascular Diseases in Women. Why have you asked her as a speaker?

‘We wanted a subject that isn’t chosen that often, hence the medical angle. And I know that Hester is an energetic, inspiring speaker who is brilliant at explaining fundamental research to a wider audience. I always find it a privilege to listen to her.’

Hester’s lecture ‘Hartenvrouw’ (Queen of Hearts) is about the importance of understanding cardiovascular diseases in women. What makes this so urgent?

‘Globally, cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death in women and yet the diagnostic tests mainly focus on men. This means, in effect, that these diseases are less likely to be detected in half of the population. That’s unbelievable, isn’t it? And if things are going wrong with something so fundamental, where else are women being overlooked? I think this is also an interesting question for our students to consider.’

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

‘I see it as a moment of reflection. It is a day when we celebrate the rights we have gained but also need to appreciate that an incredible amount still needs to be done for true equality to be achieved. So I’m hoping for a big turnout so that we as a university community can show how important we consider this to be. This lecture always attracts a very loyal audience but we would also like to welcome new listeners this year.’

So you’re welcome even if you’re not a committed feminist or know very little about it?

‘Definitely, do please sign up. As a student or staff member, you really don’t have to be a feminist to have a fantastic evening at this lecture. Everyone is welcome, men too because it will be a shame if the room is only full of women. It will be all the better if we manage to attract a diverse audience. That’s when you get the best discussions.’

The Annie Romein-Verschoor Lecture 2024 will be held (in Dutch) on Friday 8 March from 19:30 until 22:00 in Leiden. There will also be a livestream.

A quick call with

There’s a lot happening at Leiden University. The websites fill with news on a daily basis. In ‘A quick call with’, we ask a member of staff to tell us more about a relevant and topical subject.

Text: Evelien Flink
Banner photo: Anabel Oosteweeghel

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