A woman sits crying on the Koelhorn Dam, West Friesland. It’s the late 30s of the last century. That morning, with her five children and some household goods, she left her trusted Zeeland on a truck to join her husband, who had moved to North Holland as an unemployed farm laborer and had been hired to work on “work relief” in the Wieringermeer. When I arrived, he wasn’t home yet. The house he rented down the dam turned out to be very small, almost empty, and polluted. She doesn’t know anyone here, she doesn’t even understand people. You will feel lonely and lost for years to come.
Ali De Riggt heard this story about her mother only later from her older sister. A few months after she was born, the seventh and last child, the family moved to Winkle, a village a few miles to the south. Father de Regt started a fruit company there. They remained poor: cider and pears cooked from their own country and currant cake on Sundays were the only frivolities on the table.
For Ali de Rigt, who did social research and taught at the University of Amsterdam from 1968 until her retirement in 2006, her origins always played a role. It came up in the topics I researched, and they always revolved around the topic of social inequality. Like her book Money and family (1993), about the intertwining of economic and emotional relationships among family members, and their changes over the course of the twentieth century. Friend and former colleague Rineke van Daalen: “A wonderful subject matter, drawn entirely from her origins. Just like the book I wrote with Don Winnink on special education, Invest in your children (2003). There, too, she very cleverly puts her finger on the sore spots, like parents who are egalitarian, but still make different choices when it comes to their children.”
Father de Regt, a pacifist, liberal Protestant socialist, had left school already at the age of nine to start working. He attached great importance to his children continuing their education. It will happen, even if only Ali will go to university. Politics was discussed at the dinner table, and reading was encouraged. After high school, Ali attended the teacher training college in Alkmaar. After that she wanted to go to Amsterdam. Nico Wilterdinck, life partner, emeritus professor of cultural sociology: “They read at home Green AmsterdamShe saw everything that made her curious, such as reviews of theatrical performances.
Ali became a teacher at Mussenstraatschool in Amsterdam-Noord, now Het Vogelnest, known for the documentary series layers. Education went well for her, but she wanted to develop further. In addition to her job and work on the board of the Amsterdam department of the PSP, she followed the HBS written course and when she passed the state exam two years later, she said goodbye to the school and went to study political science. Her father believed that his daughter was ready to enter politics to such a degree, and was very disappointed when it turned out that this was not the case.
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she focused on sociology because, says Niko Wilterdink, she was interested in society “in a broad sense”. Ali and Nico met when they were assistant students in the Sociology Minor. They had a broad common interest, not only in social issues but also in culture and literature.
Christian Brinkreiff, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, also befriended Ali de Riggt during her student days. “She was clearly ‘different’: a no-fuss person. I remember her light North Holland accent. But what was most remarkable was that she was interested in everything. Conversation with her always became interesting. It remained that way until her death. She had firm opinions , but her curiosity always outweighs the desire to judge.”
When people were disparaging about the “bad taste” in the lower social classes, it annoyed her greatly
Ali de Rigt had no children, and he was more interested in other people’s children. For Marina de Rijt, the daughter of Ali’s older brother and an anthropologist affiliated with the Free University, she was a “wonderful aunt.” “We look alike, our areas of expertise touch, but she was much more analytical and very critical. She came to see me when I was living and working in Yemen and questioned my head. About Yemeni society, politics. Until she exclaimed, ‘I really don’t know all of that!'”
Ali’s father did not see the point of science, no matter how important he thought learning was. He believed that you should contribute something tangible to society through your education. It left her with a lifelong flair for putting the meaning of her work and sociology in general into perspective. Rineke van Daalen: “She could tidy up her desk with a kind of pleasure and then throw a lot in the trash. Then she quickly pulled out something that I wanted to keep.” Christian Brinkreiff: “She was a very valuable and authoritative teacher. No one could talk about social issues as passionately as he could. However, after each series of lectures we gave together, I wondered if we had taught the students enough.”
As a sociologist, de Riggt was aware of the “insecurities of her position” due to her background. Although she was a social climber, she never really looked down on the environment she came from. When people spoke disparagingly of money as something that shouldn’t matter, or denigrated “bad taste” in the lower social classes, she was very upset and took it upon herself.
After her retirement, de Rijt stopped publishing, unlike many of her fellow sociologists with whom she befriended. I thought it was time to make a more tangible contribution and started teaching refugees, educated people and children with learning difficulties. Since last year, says Nico Welterdinck, on her own initiative, they have been introducing residence permit holders to their Gerrit van der Venstrat home in Amsterdam. She felt comfortable in the south of Amsterdam, among the elegant ladies of her reading club, but she did not deny her strict origins. Like her mother, she still cared about the prices in the store. I often heard her say, “What a fool!”