Anna Maria van Schurman

Anna Maria van Schurman (Cologne, 5 November 1607 – 4 May 1678 Wiewerd) became the first female university student of Europe (Utrecht University, 1636) and the most learned woman of her time. Born in Cologne, she lived most of her life behind the Domcathedral in Utrecht, Holland, where she became … read more

About me

After having convinced her parents that a girl should be allowed to study, Pieta van Beek (Rotterdam 1958) studied Dutch linguistics and literature, Swedish and History of Art at the University of Utrecht (Drs.Litt. 1987), followed by Classical Languages (D.Litt. 1997) and Ancient Near Eastern Languages (MA cum laude2004) at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa). Van Beek published an edition of the Dutch poems of Anna Maria van Schurman: ‘Verbastert Christendom’: Nederlandse gedichten van Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-1678) (Houten 1992), and wrote her doctoral dissertation on Van Schurman’s Opuscula, entitled Klein werk: de ‘Opuscula Hebraea Graeca Latina et Gallica, prosaica et metrica’ van Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-1678) (Stellenbosch 1997) proefschrift PhD Klein werk: de Opuscula Hebraea Graeca Latina et Gallica, prosaica et metrica

She wrote contributions on Van Schurman’s Neo-Latin poetry in the three-volume work Women writing Latin (New York 2002) as well as in De Utrechtse Parnas (Amersfoort 2003) and the Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe (2009). She published contributions on Van Schurman’s martyrdom in The Low Countries as Crossroads of Religious Beliefs (Brill 2004) and on Van Schurman’s teachers in Historica (2009). In 2013 she started the Serie Schurmanniana with unknown documents by Van Schurman, like  a florilegium with sayings on God (nr. 1), letters to Johannes Vollenhoven and Petrus Montanus (nr. 2 and 3) unknown published letters from Rotger zum Bergen (nr. 4), the auction catalogue of the Labadists in Altona, some Latin poems, works of art, etc. etc.

In the period 1987-2005, Pieta van Beek taught Dutch at the Utrecht Stedelijk Gymnasium and at the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch. After teaching Greek at the Department of Classical Languages at Stellenbosch University, she is at present a Research Fellow at the Faculty of Theology of Stellenbosch and Research Associate at Utrecht University. She was a guest-lecturer in i.a. Lund, Uppsala, Leuven, Leiden, Amsterdam and Oxford.  

Together with Dineke Ehlers as co-author, she wrote a handbook for teaching Dutch in South Africa: Oranje boven. Nederlands voor Zuid-Afrika (Pretoria 2004, 2007, 2012 the 3rd edition). Women’s issues have held her interest for a long time. She served on the management committee of the Women’s Forum at Stellenbosch University and is giving lectures and classes on women’s history for a long time.

 (Greek In addition to her lectures and publications on Anna Maria van Schurman, she also researches forgotten female writers of South Africa, such as Maria Murray Neethling, Anna Pauw and Petronella Camijn. The book My mother’s mother’s mother  South African Women’s Writing from 17th -Century Dutch to Contemporary Afrikaans 1652-2016 (2019, Leiden, Leiden University Press, 12 June) she wrote together with Annemarié van Niekerk.

Her friendship with the Dutch poet Ida Gerhardt was chronicled in a limited edition of Brieven van overzee: Ida Gerhardt (1905-1997) nabij (Stellenbosch 2001; Ridderkerk, Provily Pers, 2013). See for a review Resensie deur Annemarié van Niekerk

‘The Utrecht Lecture’ which she delivered in Stellenbosch, in honour of the renewal of the relationship between the universities of Utrecht and Stellenbosch, being an alumna of both universities, was published as ‘Poeta laureata’: Anna Maria van Schurman, de eerste studente in 1636 (Utrecht 2004;rede ter ere van het herstel banden UU en US; it was a preliminary shorter version of the book De eerste studente: Anna Maria van Schurman (1636) (2004, reprinted in 2007). In 2010 The first female university student: Anna Maria van Schurman (1636) was published by Igitur, the Utrecht University Press  First Female University Student Anna Maria van Schurman 1636

Since 2013 she has a column on Women and Spirituality in the Handreiking (Domcathedral in Utrecht), called Vrouwen toen en nu (Women past and present).  Examples are the Frisian  Anna Elisabeth Buma, the Groninger Hyleke Gockinga, Sarah Losh, Maria de Vooght, Hebe Kohlbrugge, Ida Gerhardt, Kitty and Elly Koperberg, Ans Vogel, to mention a few.

At present she is writing a book on the name and fame of Anna Maria van Schurman. The bookroll on the same topic was presented on 1 September 2016. bookroll

Since 2000 she is a member of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde and of Die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kunste. In 2015 she became president of the Gerrit Achterberggenootschap. She won several prizes and awards ( i.a. C.S. Edgar-prize for Greek; Van Ewijck-prizes (Dutch language and culture); NWO;  Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde).


in 2023 she started a new Series Schurmanniana with unknown tekst by and on Anna Maria van Schurman., for example Juweeltjes. Onbekende Aanteekeningen van Mr. J.P. Amersfoordt over de Anna Maria van Schurmanverzameling te Franeker (1851). 

Last but not least: she is mother of the twins Thomas and Brandaan Huigen and married to Erik Heijerman.

Pieta van Beek is a researcher at Utrecht University (ICI, Institute for Cultural Inquiry/ ICON, Instituut voor Cultuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Muntstraat 2a 3512 EV Utrecht, She is also a Research Fellow at Stellenbosch University, South Africa ( and at Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam) (