Before the world’s elite named her “The Angel of Amsterdam,” she was already a legend to the prostitutes, pimps, alcoholics, addicts, and poor families living in the shadows of that city.
Lt. Colonel Alida Margaretha Bosshardt, O.F., the most famous Salvation Army officer in the Netherlands, was affectionately known as “Major Bosshardt” in the district where she ministered for almost 50 years. Her lifelong friends in the United States lovingly called her simply “The Major.”
At her funeral on June 30, it took two days for more than 3,500 people to pass her coffin and say “farewell” to a woman whose special skill was an ability to love all kinds of people.
The Salvation Army’s Goodwill Corps in central Amsterdam was the venue for the ceremony that included the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, the Mayor of Amsterdam, and Queen Beatrix.
Who was this Salvationist whose promotion to Glory caused an entire nation to mourn? “She was a guardian angel in uniform,” says Major Charles Olsen, who met her in the late 70s. He and his wife Berniece were two of many USA Eastern Territory officers touched by Bosshardt’s acts of kindness and hospitality. “She kept in touch with us with her letters,” says Berniece. “She was a remarkable person.”
As a teenager, Bosshardt met the Army and committed herself to Christ; she became an officer in 1935. When the Army became an “underground” movement during World War 2, she continued to serve in a children’s home in Amsterdam. “She took Jewish children to safety on her bicycle,” Charles Olsen says. Many years later, the government of Israel presented her with the Yad Vashem award, which recognized her as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for saving children during the Nazi occupation.
In 1948, The Salvation Army gave Bosshardt a flag and about $50 to begin a ministry in Amsterdam’s inner city, where she found her calling to help people on the margins of society.
As a princess, Queen Beatrix worked alongside Bosshardt, delivering The War Cry in bars and visiting prostitutes and poor families in the red–light district. At the Old Orchard Beach Camp Meetings, General John Gowans recounted an incident when the queen came incognito to visit Bosshardt on the job, and the two ended up jumping on bicycles to escape reporters. For 30 years, at the queen’s request, Bosshardt conducted devotions for the palace staff.
Bosshardt was honored on Dutch television and received the Order of the Founder, the Army’s highest honor and the Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau (the Dutch equivalent of the Order of the British Empire).
On the day of her funeral, crowds lined the streets as the procession passed by. In a message from International Headquarters, General Shaw Clifton said, “…We salute and honor Alida Bosshardt for her deep devotion to the cause of Christ, for her selflessness in serving others, for her example of Christlikeness, and for the wonderful inspiration of her discipleship.”
—Reported by Ruud Tinga,
Commissioner Juanita Nelting,
and Warren L. Maye