Maria Ullfah

Maria Ullfah, Mother of Indonesia’s National Women’s Day – @PotretLawas

Dutch East Indies Students in Holland, 1932. Maria Ullfah (right) would go on to become the first woman bachelor of laws from the Dutch East Indies.

Dutch East Indies Students in Holland, 1932. Maria Ullfah (right) would go on to become the first woman Bachelor of Laws from the Dutch East Indies. (Source: @Potretlawas)

Maria Ullfah was the daughter of Kuningan regent R.A.A. Mohammad Achmad. Maria entered the Faculty of Law at the University of Leiden in 1929 and graduated in 1933.

A friend from the same faculty and boarding house, Siti Soendari (left), who was also the sister of Dr. Soetomo, followed by taking a Bachelor of Laws the following year. On her return to the Dutch East Indies, Maria Ullfah worked in the office of the Cirebon regency government, however, this was only to last several months because she chose to study German and government at the Muhammadiyah school in Batavia. It was probably here that Maria Ullfah’s involvement in the nationalist movement began.

The causes which Maria championed included a fair marriage law, which she proposed at the Third Women’s Congress. Maria then became the head of the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Women in Marriage. Her goal was a marriage law which was based on the principle of equity of rights and responsibilities between men and women.

22 December was declared Women’s Day at the Third Women’s Congress which was held in Bandung from 23 to 27 July 1938. Women’s Day in 1953 was a gala celebration as it was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Women’s Congress. However, as a national day Women’s Day was not made a public holiday until 1959 with the release of Presidential Decree No. 316/1959.

Some of Maria Ullfah’s other important roles included the inclusion of human rights articles in the 1945 Constitution as it was being drafted by the Body Investigating Steps for Preparedness for Indonesian Independence (BPUPKI). Maria was one of its members. It was Maria who strongly protested when the early draft made no mention of human rights. Drs. Mohammad Hatta played the same role.

After independence, Maria Ullfah became Minister of Social Affairs in the Second Sjahrir Cabinet in 1946. It was under her stewardship that the Office of Workers’ Affairs was born which was the forerunner of today’s Ministry of Labor (@KemnakerRI). She was part of the fight for workers’ rights through her drafting of the social affairs law which aimed to improve the conditions of workers. This draft became law in 1948.

So it was that after this long record of nationalist struggle in 1959 Maria Ullfah proposed that Women’s Day on 22 December be made a national day. At the time Maria was Director of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet office during the administration of Prime Minister Juanda.

Her dream was simple, that women would always be aware of their responsibilities as mothers of the nation.

Hari Ibu, 1939 (Source: @Potretlawas)

Hari Ibu, 1939 (Source: @Potretlawas)

Source: Various tweets from @potretlawas.

Note: Hari Ibu is usually rendered “Mother’s Day”.

‘Framing Asia’ is a monthly film screening and discussion on Asia during the Leiden Asia Year.

“Framing Asia” – The next monthly film screening and discussion during the Leiden Asia Year – KITLV

‘Framing Asia’ is a monthly film screening and discussion on Asia during the Leiden Asia Year. We are very pleased to invite you to the fifth edition of  ‘Framing Asia’. You are welcome to join us on Wednesday 7 June at 19.30 h at Lipsius 028. This edition will screen three films centered around the theme ‘Decolonization and Revolution: Veterans and Re-enactments’.

Libera Me (30 min)

Martin van den Oever & Jos Janssen

Libera Me is a transnational approach to the colonial war between Indonesia and the Netherlands. With personal reflections of some veterans of war from both sides a concentrated circular and shared history of 30 minutes is constructed, merging and reconciling both perspectives. We meander between past and present and between two nations that came to be further apart then they already were.

Looking Back Now (18 min)

Marjolein van Pagee

A sequence of videos made between 2013-2015 that show the people that Van Pagee interviewed, all related to memories of the Indonesian independence war in East-Java and Madura. In this 18 minute video-compilation we will see the people behind the portraits of photo-project ‘Kembang Kuning – Yellow Flower’. Stories about war and destruction are usually sad, yet, the compilation ends with a video that will make you laugh for sure.

The Feel of History (29 min)

Lise Zurne

Each year, a historical society called the Komunitas Djokjakarta 1945 reenacts one of the last battles with the Dutch colonizers of 1949 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Following their preparations, this film seeks to portray this community and its main members. By focusing on the material culture of re-enactment, one learns how these re-enactors create a spectacular and romanticized re-presentation of the past that allows them to temporarily be the war heroes that they worship so much.

All filmmakers will be present to enter a discussion with Bart Luttikhuis. Bart Luttikhuis is a researcher at KITLV in late colonial history and the history of decolonization, with a particular empirical focus on early to mid-twentieth century Indonesia.

Date: Wednesday 7 June 2017

Time: 19.30 h

Location: Leiden University, Lipsius Building, room 028

More information:

Adat law 100 years on: towards a new interpretation?

‘Adat law 100 years on: Towards a new interpretation?’ – KITLV

REMINDER: The Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Society (VVI), in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), organize an international conference on the continued importance of adat law in present day Indonesia on 22 May 2017.

International Conference: ‘Adat law 100 years on: Towards a new interpretation?’

Leiden Asia Year

Leiden Asia Year

22 May 2017

National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

This international conference focuses on adat law in Indonesia a century after the Adat Law Foundation (adatrechtstichting) was set up in Leiden in 1917 by Cornelius van Vollenhoven and Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. In present-day Indonesia adat law continues to be of great importance.

The international conference aims to provide an update and to look at the current legal, social and political meaning of adat law, the way it is being invoked and how it is deployed for a variety of purposes. The key question is what the relevance of adat law is in present-day Indonesia.

Read more about the progam

Date: 22 May 2017

Time: 13.30 – 18.00

Venue: National Museum of Ethnology, Steenstraat 1, Leiden

Registration required:

Founded by KITLV/Adatrechtfonds, Leiden University (AMT, VVI) & LUF.

For more information visit

Photo credit: KITLV, NIMH and NIOD.

Decolonisation, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950: KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies

Decolonisation, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950 is a large-scale, joint inquiry carried out by KITLV, the Netherlands Institute for Military History (NIMH) and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The project has been made financially possible by the Dutch government, due to its decision on 2 December 2016 to lend its support to a broad inquiry into the events of this period.

f1b13645-a88e-4794-8d7d-d947be1dd222The programme comprises nine subprojects and aims to answer questions regarding the nature, extent and causes of structural transborder violence in Indonesia, considered in a broader political, social and international context. In this context, detailed attention will be paid to the chaotic period spanning from August 1945 to early 1945 – often referred to as the Bersiap – and the political and social aftermath in the Netherlands, Indonesia and elsewhere.

It is expected that KITLV will be responsible for the synthesis and will carry out the subprojects Regional Studies and Bersiap. For these projects the group, together with Indonesian colleagues, will carry out research in several Indonesian regions. These subprojects will be the continuation of the KITLV-project Dutch military operations in Indonesia 1945-1950 that has run since 2012.

The programme has a strong international character. There will be cooperation with researchers from Indonesia and other countries involved and sources originating from Indonesia, Australia, United Kingdom and the United States (United Nations) will be used more than previously was the case. Furthermore, the programme explicitly includes the opportunity for witness accounts from the Netherlands and Indonesia to be presented. Witnesses can come forward themselves or will be traced by researchers, in order to allow them to document their personal accounts for future generations.

The three institutes stress the importance of broad national and international support for the programme. In order to achieve this, the institutes have appointed an international scientific advisory board and a Netherlands societal focus group (Maatschappelijk Klankbordgroep Nederland).

For more information see:


For the purpose of this inquiry, it is important that those involved are seen and heard. If you have material or more information about Indonesia in the 1945-1950 time period and are willing to contribute to our research, please contact:

Miners in the Ombilin Coal Mine at Sawahloento, Sumatra's West Coast, 1920


By Muhammad Yamin, 1920

On the border, the Barisan Range,
I gaze out, look down and behold;
A vista of dense jungles and valleys;
And charming rice fields, winding rivers;
And then more, I see also,
The green canopy changes color
With forest crown, palm fronds;
That is the country, my homeland
Sumatra is its name, my beloved birth country.

As far as the eye can see, only forest,
Mountainous and hilly, nestling valleys;
Far in distance, way over there,
Bounded by mountains one by one
There is assuredly a heaven,
Without doubt a second paradise on earth
– A Malay Garden of Eden on top of the world!
That is the country I love,
Sumatra is its name, which I honor.

On the border, the Barisan Range,
Gazing down on beautiful beaches and bays;
A vista of water, endless water,
That is the sea, the Indian ocean.
Visible there are the waves, so many waves
Breaking onto the sand, then spreading out,
They thunder, as if to proclaim:
“Oh Andalas, island of Sumatra,
Make sweet the name, from north to south!”

Bogor, July 1920

Ngarai Sianok

Ngarai Sianok

Homeland (Tanah Air) was first published in Indonesian in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra : organ van den Jong Sumatranen Bond, Batavia, 1920 No. 4. It was republished in Pane, Armijn (ed.), Sandjak-Sandjak Muda Mr. Muhammad Yamin [The Young Poems of Mr. Muhammad Yamin], Firma Rada, Djakarta, 1954, p. 5.