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5. Time to relax

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The maids do not have much free time, but they are not used to that anyways. During off time they prefer to look for fellow islanders: other maids or fishermen moored in a nearby harbour.

Marij Wezelman and Klaasje Hakvoort relax in a park in Scheveningen (private collection)

During the week the girls work hard. They often get only one evening off, for Bible classes. But on Sundays, the maids get to take it easy. In the morning, they go to church – preferably in a large group. Then they roam the town or visit Urk fishermen in the nearby harbour.

Maids visiting an Urk botter (Dutch Open Air Museum)

In the evening, they join youth clubs or the Salvation Army to sing songs. A favourite song is the sentimental ‘Yonder in an alley full of misery and distress‘; few girls can sing that song without shedding a few tears.

Most girls are curious and want to know what’s out there in the world. Although warned against it on Urk, they do go to the movies or a gig from time to time.

Maids in their Sunday costumes photographed in a studio (Vrienden van Urk)

One thing the maids cannot avoid is writing. Letters and cards are the only way to keep in touch with the home front and the boyfriend. Telephony is still in its infancy at the turn of the century; moreover, not every employer appreciates the use of the telephone.

Writing has a positive outcome: they provide tangible memories. Some will later use their writing talents to protest or even become poets or authors.

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Wilhelmina van Peere, Urk girl in Sunday dress, 1908, oil on canvas (Museum Het Oude Raadhuis)