Honoring Female Pioneers of the Netherlands Antilles

March 7, 2024 Caribbean Culture

In celebration of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Bon Trade shines a spotlight on the special contributions made by women of the Netherlands Antilles to events in history and contemporary society.

Women from the Caribbean Islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have been trailblazers and inspiring many.

The three people we wish to mention in this article, for International Women’s Day, are remarkable women, whose extraordinary achievements will energise and encourage generations to come.


Curaçao-born swimmer Enith Sijtje Maria Brigitha (born 1955) who first learned to swim in the Caribbean Sea, was twice named “Dutch Sportswoman of the Year” in 1973 and 1974.
Enith Brigitha
Enith Sijtje Maria Brigitha

Her name is etched in history as the first black champion swimmer to win a medal in the Olympics.

Enith moved to Holland in 1970 and represented the Netherlands in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics and won two bronze medals at the 1976 Montreal, and Quebec Summer Olympics in the women’s 100m and 200m freestyle.

She also gained eight other medals in 100 meters and 200 meters backstroke and freestyle events in 1973 and 1975 FINA World Championships and at the 1974 European Championships.

Enith’s accomplishments stand out as she competed against women from the German Democratic Republic who benefitted from illegal doping practices, so to many, she is considered a gold medal winner.

After retiring from swimming she moved back to Curaçao and opened her own swimming school.


Also noteworthy for her achievements is mezzo-soprano Tania Kross (born 1976) who made significant strides in music.


Tania Kross
Tania Kross

The Curaçao-born singer was classically trained at the Utrechts Conservatorium and the International Opera Studio in Amsterdam and has performed in renowned operas globally.

.Tania played a pivotal role in bringing Papiamento culture to the forefront when she encouraged Carel De Haseth to adapt his novel “Katibu di Shon” into the first opera in Papiamento, celebrating the cultural heritage of the Dutch Caribbean.

She achieved global recognition representing The Netherlands as a finalist in the 2003 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition and for her portrayal of Carmen at Glyndebourne in 2008.

Modern music-lovers might remember Tania best for her performance in the Dutch 2019 edition of “The Masked Singer,” which she won as a robot.


Political Pioneer Angela Altagracia “Tata” de Lannoy-Willems (born 1913, died 1983) will be remembered for being the first female member of the Estates of the Netherlands Antilles in 1949.
Angela Altagracia "Tata" de Lannoy-WIllems
Angela de Lannoy-WIllems


Despite failing to be elected initially, Angela successfully secured her position and contributed significantly to the political landscape, holding office until 1954.

In 1951 she was also appointed to the Council of Ministers and was also elected to Curaçao Island Council.

She spearheaded the way for future generations of female leaders in the region.


These women’s exceptional feats not only celebrate their personal successes.  They have also managed to leave behind a lasting legacy that will shape the future by creating opportunities for the women for generations to come.

We celebrate their lives and their accomplishments at Bon Trade.  And we hope this article brings their enduring accomplishments to light for people around the world and even those living in the Netherland Antilles who may be discovering them for the first time.

Bon Trade Intl. Corp. was founded in 1984 to be a service company in support of the export trade to the Caribbean from South Florida, The Gateway to the Caribbean and South America.

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