Mevr. J.M.C. Kloppenburg-Versteegh (1862-1948)

Mrs. J.M.C. Kloppenburg-Versteegh


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This biography of Mrs. Kloppenburg was to serve a dual purpose. Primarily I wanted to research and present a picture of the person and the life of Mrs, Kloppenburg , a daunting task by itself, considering the scarcity of first hand information from those who had known her intimately. I can, therefore, only present my personal image of her, which is by no means a definitive one. Any historical interpretation may be disputed by other researchers, depending on first hand knowledge or available resources There are ever other archives to dig into, interviews be held and conclusions to be drawn.
In the course of my research it soon became apparent that Mrs. Ks view on life in her time was alien to mine in my time. There is a difference in our ethnicity and in our social standing. Hers belonged to an era that is gone forever. I had to be careful not to see, value or judge her in the light of a present day Eurocentricity.
My second goal was to establish the impact this remarkable woman made on her society, taking into full account how the life style, circumstances and experiences of her time also helped to shape her destiny. Ultimately I ended up with a threefold approach, dealing respectively with her life, her convictions and personality and finally her research and accomplishments in the field of healing through the use of readily available medicinal herbs in order to compensate for the inadequacies of traditional medicine in the Indies in her time.

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Chapter 1: "to solve some of the problems of suffering mankind".
Herbal Medicine, 1862-1908.

Forced to come home at the age of 14 in order to assist her mother, Jans Versteegh, the later Mrs. Kloppenburg, took an early interest in the use of medicinal herbs. She enjoyed being taught the varied uses of her mothers extensive collection of various prescriptions and she listened closely to the discussions between her mother and Dr. Mandt, a family friend (who ran a leper colony). Jans was given her own share of responsibilities.
Looking back at this phase of her life, Jans vividly remembers one of her outstanding problems.

"One of the children of my halfsister suffered from convulsions. Both her legs would become paralyzed and her feet remained twisted. Then my sister died, leaving her eight children deprived of motherly care. My brother-in-law brought them to my parents and I was given the responsibility of looking after them. Betsy, the girl with the paralyzed legs, was of the greatest concern o me. She shared my room with me. Because money was tight, no other badly needed assistance was available and I felt heavily burdened looking after these half-orphans, especially that unfortunate child, Betsy. But I had no one to complain to and I also did not want to bother my parents with it. As always, I sought solace from God. I took my suffering and sorrows to Him and I prayed that Betsy might be healed. I was totally convinced that I could put my trust in God and that God would not put that trust to shame. Then, in a dream God revealed to me - and until this day I cannot and do not want to find another explanation - that I must drag the girl through the early morning dew, making sure that her paralyzed legs, feet and hip got thoroughly soaked. I faithfully did that every morning . This treatment did no harm to the girl and gradually there was an improvement. How happy I felt, and how grateful to my Lord, when she was able to take her first few steps all by herself. This was a kind of emotion that can not be described, one can only experience it. Alas, her left foot never fully recovered, it always kept dragging somewhat. A few years later, when I was about to get married, all eight children returned to their father. Unfortunately, Betsy was one of the first to succumb a short time later during a rampant cholera epidemic in the Solo area."

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Chapter 2: "with resiliance and cheerfulness"
Convictions, 1908-1937

As the day progressed the family started to look more European. After the afternoon nap Jans and the children dressed in the European style. Frequently they took a drive in their open carriage, pulled by the two white Sundanese horses, off to the harbour or to the beautiful Oei Tiong Ham Chinese garden with the dwarf trees. At dinner time the children had to mind their manners in speech, dress and conduct at the table. Any infraction thereupon promptly meant being sent to the bedroom.

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Chapter 3: "We Dutch"
Ownership, 1937-1948

" Outside the cultivated gardens of Andanasari everything else grew in the wild but grandma seemed to recognize everything. "Look, children, this beautiful flower is the Belladonna. Be very careful with it. Women use it to get beautiful eyes. It makes their pupils open wide but that is not healthy for their eyes. So, dont touch it and then rub your eyes." "And what is this, grandma?" and then she would take that flower, leaf or berry from that particular bush, crush it between her fingers and smell it. "This is very poisonous," she would often say. Then we, her grandchildren, would often try it on our own, but we never found out how something poisonous should smell.
During those walks grandma would often talk with the Javanese village elders. She would ask them how the population was doing, were there any health problems, what were they doing about it. Often she would give advise to these people, showing them what herbs (weeds to us) were beneficial and how to prepare the medication.
(Memoirs of grandson Fred Kloppenburg.)


During the last two years of her mother's life, Troel gave her all the love and care, continuously tried to please and comfort her (mrs Kloppenburg was too ill to even consider evacuation to Holland). She collected empty jars which she used for bedwarmers, she gave her mother massages with healing oils. Somehow she got hold of a small package of petunia seeds which she planted underneath her mothers bedroom window. Back in Andanasari her mother had always loved the blooming petunias.

The continuous nursing, the lack of money and food, worries about their safety and the unknown fate of Albert took a heavy toll on Troel. Her letters to Holland started to sound progressively sadder. In February, 1948, she wrote "If Ma remains as she is now and if she has no pain, she'll be certain to live for a while yet." In June, 1948, she wrote "I do hope Ma will see you all again."
Mrs. Kloppenburg died in Malang in October, 1948, and was buried there. Her wish to see her children again could not be fulfilled.


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