Major Bosshardt was a well-known officer who worked in the Red Light District (aka ‘De Wallen’). She could be described as “one of a kind” and became a national hero through her work in Amsterdam.
From the age of 20 she worked for the Salvation Army as a social worker, first in Utrecht, later Rotterdam and finally Amsterdam.
When Amsterdam North was bombarded in July 1943, she fled to Hilversum, some 30 miles away, together with Jewish children that she kept hidden from the German Nazi invaders.
From 1948 onwards Bosshardt held Christmas meetings for prostitutes in De Wallen area and always gave them a helping hand. She said the following about her relationship with prostitutes: “Should I believe that I can fight prostitution? No way! I try and give these women a helping hand often enough so that at the moment they want to grab one, they can reach out. We accept these girls and women as they are, in their situation. In fact, I could have essentially been there too.” She established her head quarters at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, right in the middle of De Wallen area, in a house she rented. Although she was promoted to Lieutenant colonel, the Dutch knew her as ‘Major Bosshardt’. On national television she could say sharp and true things, but was never offensive, a virtue not many people have. She also loved to laugh.
Major Bosshardt took crown Princess Beatrix to Amsterdam’s Red Light District, to show her the scene, the women and the work she did for prostitutes. Although Beatrix went incognito, dressed as a civilian woman with a scarf over her hair, a picture was published by De Telegraaf – a Dutch newspaper – of the event.
In the tv program ‘Villa Felderhof’, she could be seen together with co-guest Herman Brood – Dutch rockband leader and artist. Brood was addicted to alcohol and drugs. The tv program was filmed in a luxurious mansion near St. Tropez, not exactly a background that you expect from the Salvation Army.
Sitting in an expensive boat off the coast, the question was raised if someone could go to heaven. “Well, I don’t know whether this will happen to me”, Major Bosshardt said modestly and in earnest. Her companion, the naughty alcohol and speed addicted Herman Brood had to laugh so hard, he almost fell off the boat. “If you don’t go, my chances are zero!!” Brood giggled. “If a saint like you can’t come in, who can?” Not long after this, Herman Brood – who was on a diet of one bottle Cointreau per day plus several shots of speed – jumped off the roof of Amsterdam’s Hilton Hotel and was found dead 12 floors below on the pavement in front of the hotel.
Alida Margareta Bosshardt died in 2007, at the age of 94 years old. She was knight and officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau and was distinguished with many prices and awards. One of which was the Israeli Yad Vashem distinction, for brave and excellent citizenship for her actions during the Second World War.
Major Bosshardt was immortalized in a bronze statue on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, where most of her life took place. It presents this Wonderful woman sitting on a bench, in her simple Salvation Army uniform.