Viet Nam News
by Minh Thu
HÀ NỘI — US defence lawyer Nancy Hollander kept historical documents about the friendship between Vietnamese and American women hidden in a box for decades before handling them to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hà Nội yesterday.
When Hollander attended a meeting between delegations of women from the US and the north and the south of Việt Nam in 1965 in Jakarta, Indonesia, she was a student, the youngest member of the American delegation.
The meeting was a forum for women to raise their voices about the war between the US and Việt Nam. US-based organisation Women Strike for Peace (WSP) and the Việt Nam Women’s Union selected representatives from different walks of life such as teachers, doctors, students and workers to attend the meeting.
Hollander gave the museum a treasure trove – as many as 450 items including reports, documents, journals, magazines and photos reflecting the opinions of Vietnamese and American women about the war in Việt Nam. They are proof of the lasting friendship between women of the two countries. They express a desire for peace and the women’s strong will to work together to make world peace a reality.
Nguyễn Thị Bình, former vice president of Việt Nam, the then head of the delegation of southern women at the meeting, said the meeting was the first instance of people-to-people diplomacy between Việt Nam and the US. After the meeting, the attendees joined many anti-war movements.
Hollander was one of 10 American women to make the trip to Jakarta for the meeting, which was held from July 13 to 18. In the group there was teacher, a housewife, a lawyer, a social activist and workers. She preserved all her documents from the meeting and then collected books and newspapers about Việt Nam.
“Before the meeting, I never thought that I could present or talk in front of the public,” said Hollander. “Then I realised that I have many things to tell and have to tell.”
“I was impressed by the pride, strength and braveness of the Vietnamese women who come from the country devastated by the war,” she said. “I want to join other people to make the world a worthy place to live for all children. How devastating war is.”
Hollander still keeps her white silk áo dài (traditional long dress), a gift from the Vietnamese delegation in 1965, because it makes her feel connected with Việt Nam and shows the friendship between her and the Vietnamese people.
“Another item that makes me impressed is a khăn rằn (scarf with checkered pattern) which is popular among women in the south of Việt Nam. They wave the scarf while demonstrating. It reminds me as a symbol of the strong will of Vietnamese women.”
Nguyễn Hải Vân, director of the museum, said she was thrilled to receive the items.
“They are important documents reflecting the role of women during the war,” she said. “They will be displayed in front of the public soon to provide a deeper view of the history.”
American writer and researcher Lady Borton was the bridge between the museum and Hollander. Borton first came to Việt Nam in 1969 and since then has returned to the country many times. She has written and translated many books about Vietnamese history, including Family, Friends and country – An Autobiography of Nguyễn Thị Bình. There is a photo of Bình and Hollander in the book. A friend of Hollander found it and told her about the book. After seeing the photo, Hollander contacted Borton. They discussed Bình and Vietnamese history.
Hollander had the idea to donate all of her documents to Việt Nam, and Borton helped connect her to the Women’s Museum. Borton also helped identity the stories and categories of the documents.
Hollander said the documents are an important part of history and should be displayed to the public. And the Vietnamese Women’s Museum is the ideal place to keep them. — VNS