Universiteit Leiden

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On 27 January 1900 thirteen female students gathered and established the Leesgezelschap van Vrouwelijke Studenten te Leiden (reading association for female students in Leiden).

Among the founders were feminist Lizzy van Dorp and Nelly Cohen Stuart. The goal of the the association quickly changed and was renamed Vereeniging van Vrouwelijke Studenten te Leiden (association of female students in Leiden), simply called the VVSL. Soon the female variant mirrored oneself to the male association with various sub-associations and activities and they moved to a permanent place of residence. In 1928 the women moved to Rapenburg 65, the building that would remain the meetingpoint of the association for 45 years which received the name the ‘Club’. When the Second World War started in 1940, there was initially not much nuisance due to the war. However, that changed on December 18th that year. The building was closed by the Germans and all assets were seized. The ladies had been smart enough to empty the wine cellar of the Clubhouse so that the Germans could not enjoy it and they wouldnt drunkenly bother the women on the streets.

Moreover, the VVSL celebrated their anniversary every five years. As many students know, the celebration of a Lustrum is essential for a social club. It brings extra dynamism and liveliness and ensures greater connectedness. In 1965 there were some problems for the VVSL to celebrate their 13th Lustrum. Leiden University would exist for 390 years. To celebrate this in a big way, the Rector Magnificus wanted to organize an extensive Lustrum in which all students would participate. In order to achieve this, the University Board decided that all social associations would organize something within the University Lustrum. The VVSL did not want to surrender their own Lustrum and with good arguments they convinced the University to let them keep their own celebrations. They also promised that a special committee would be appointed to deal with the University Lustrum. This meant a double celebration for the ladies of the VVSL.

Many members of the VVSL have left their mark on society. For example Annelien Kappeyne van de Coppello, who became a member of the VVSL in 1956. She participated in the editing of the associations’ magazine ‘Nitor’ and became Praeses (president) of the VVSL in 1960. At the time of her election, the VVSL was still quite conformist, unlike Annelien. She introduced the ‘Borreluur’. Initially the VVSL members were only drinking tea at the Club, but from now on they also served sherry. This non-conformist behaviour is also reflected in the later political career, where Annelien always had a critical attitude. On the Gerecht there is a memory stone dedicated to her.

The VVSL also knew other famous members, including some of the royals like Queen Juliana and Queen Beatrix.

Eventually, the VVSL merged with the LSC because the male counterpart experienced some financial issues. This led to the establishment of the Leidse Studentenvereniging ‘Minerva’ on January 1, 1974 which is still active today.

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