Antwerp · History

The Red Star Line Museum

It’s the 19th century. America’s industries are flourishing, promising Europeans, poor and rich alike, a new world and a better life. With their whole life packed in a few suitcases, millions of people sail to the United States and Canada. For many people, the trip to the New World begins in a warehouse in Antwerp. Red Star Line ocean steamers pave the way to a new life for about two million men, women and children between 1873 and 1934. It is in this warehouse that the Red Star Line Museum opened its doors only some days ago, telling the story of millions of Europeans who were courageous or desperate enough to leave their old life behind and look for a better existence.

 

1. A brief history

The Red Star Line was created as a trade name in 1873, and was co-operation between the International Navigation Company (Philadelphia) and the Company Société Anonyme de Navigation Belgo-Américaine (Antwerp).  A complex of three brick-red buildings faces the Rijnkaai (Rhine landing stage), a section of the docks in the old Antwerp harbor district. For more than sixty years the Red Star Line ocean steamers docked right there.  They took on passengers by the hundreds from all over continental Europe, all pursuing the American Dream.

Belgians, too, were among those who sought a new future on the other side of the ocean. However, Belgians figured only as a small portion of the Red Star Line’s passengers. Belgian emigration to countries outside of Europe was relatively limited. Antwerp was however a particularly popular port of emigration among Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. These people constituted a sizeable proportion of the Red Star Line’s passengers. To take one statistic: of the 2.8 million people to exchange tsarist Russia for the United States between 1899 and 1914, 40% were Jewish. In many cases, these were people of very limited means who were assisted by several Jewish relief organisations in Antwerp. Many Eastern European Jews emigrated because of the socio-economic situation, but also because of the climate of discrimination against them and outbursts of anti-Semitism – the pogroms. One of the more famous passengers of the Red Star Line is the future prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir.

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2. The museum

The former warehouses of the Red Star Line were reopened as a museum on September 28, 2013. The main focus of the museum are the travel stories that could be retrieved through relatives of Red Star Line passengers. Visitors follow in the footsteps of the emigrants. The exhibition shows the different stages of the journey. Eight themes are presented over two floors: a travel agency in Warsaw, a train compartment, the city of Antwerp, the Red Star Line building, the deck of an ocean steamer, the interior of a ship, arrival at Ellis Island, and a new future in the US. The exhibition depicts how the average European emigrant would have experienced his or her journey at the beginning of the 20th century via attractive images, striking scenography and authentic objects. A strong focus is placed on the personal stories of Red Star Line passengers. Six star witnesses are central to the story. Some of them are still alive, for others the well-documented story is told by a descendant. The witnesses include Albert Einstein and Irving Berlin, two icons of the rich Red Star Line history.

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For more information on the Red Star Line Museum visit the website.

Red Star Line Museum

Montevideostraat 3
2000 Antwerp
Belgium
tel. +32 3 298 27 70
redstarline@stad.antwerpen.be

General · History

For all the women that made us women.

Today is International Women’s Day. This is the day to thank all the women who have ever fought or are still fighting for women’s rights somewhere in this world. Here are a few of the women we believe kick ass!

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Nawal El Saadawi has been called the godmother of Egyptian feminism with the rebel gene. She has written many books on the subject of women in Islam, paying particular attention to the practice of female genital cutting in her society. She is founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights.She has been awarded honorary degrees on three continents. In 2005 she won the Inana International Prize in Belgium.

Fauja Singh. Fair enough he’s a man. But men deserve some credit too. Fauja is the oldest runner alive. He runs for women’s rights. Recently he organised a mini-marathon to register his concerns over the recent incidents and generate social awareness for the rights and security of women in India.

Golda Meir was an Israeli teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of Israel in 1969. Israel’s first and the world’s third woman to hold such an office, she was described as the “Iron Lady” of Israeli politics years before the epithet became associated with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.Former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion used to call Meir “the best man in the government”; she was often portrayed as the “strong-willed, straight-talking, grey-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people”. A famous quote by Golda Meir: “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

WOMEN who KICK ASS1(From right to left)

Ellen  Johnson Sirleaf. Africa’s first female President (Liberia) and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Her work has had a significant impact on women’s rights and peace movement. Prize motivation: “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Margaret Cho. Korean American comedian and women’s rights activist. She is best known for her stand-up routines, through which she critiques social and political problems, especially those pertaining to race and sexuality.

Gloria Steinman. A leader of the Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 1960s and 1970s, Steinman helped create both New York and Ms. magazines, and helped form the National Women’s Political Caucus. An intelligent, independent woman who cleared the path for all us writers!

WOMEN who KICK ASS1(From left to right)

Ayaan Hirsi. Ali is a Somali-Dutch feminist and atheist activist, writer and politician who is known for her views critical of Islam. She wrote the screenplay for Theo van Gogh’s movie Submission, after which she and the director both received death threats, and the director was murdered. The daughter of the Somali politician and opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse, she is a founder of the women’s rights organisation the AHA Foundation. On visiting Israel she said: “My main impression was that Israel is a liberal democracy. In the places I visited, including Jerusalem as well as Tel Aviv and its beaches, I saw that men and women are equal.”

Coretta Scott King. Civll and Women’s Rights activist and the widow of Civil Rights Leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During a solidarity speech in 1968, she called for women to “unite and form a solid block of women power to fight the three great evils of racism, poverty and war”.

Manal al-Sharif. principal campaigner for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. One of her more famous campaigns is the 2011 women driving campaign, for which she was arrested for a week.

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Amelia Earheart. The first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. “One of my favorite phobias is that girls, especially those whose tastes aren’t routine, often don’t get a fair break. It has come down through the generations, an inheritance of age-old customs which produced the corollary that women are bred to timidity.” She disappeared during an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937.

Eleanor Roosevelt. “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Roosevelt was a controversial First Lady for her outspokenness, particularly for her stands on racial issues. She was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention. She advocated for expanded roles for women in the workplace, the civil rights of African Americans and Japanese Americans, and the rights of World War II refugees.

Benazir Bhutto. The first woman to lead a Muslim country in modern history and become prime minister of Pakistan.

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Hilary Rodham Clinton. American Politician. Her famous speech in Beijing in 1995, in which she declared that “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights”, inspired women worldwide and helped galvanize a global movement for women’s rights.

Shirley Chisholm. First black female elected to Congress. She later became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The second female justice (after Sandra Day O’Connor) and the first Jewish female justice. Before becoming a judge, Ginsburg spent a considerable portion of her legal career as an advocate for the advancement of women’s rights as a constitutional principle.

Happy Women’s day to all us women!

Marilyn & Josephine

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