Kenau: Heroine or Hellcat?

This year Haarlem-born Kenau Simonsdr Hasselaer (1526-1588) is the focus of attention. A feature film, a novel, a children’s book, an opera and a scholarly publication shed light on her role during the Siege of Haarlem in 1572-73.
They all portray Kenau as a heroine who defended the city, yet her name has a negative ring: in Dutch a kenau is a battle-axe, a virago with a sharp tongue.

This exhibit explores who Kenau was, how her heroic deeds were reported during her lifetime and how she was regarded in the seventeenth century.


  • Bank Giro Loterij
  • Mondriaanfonds
  • Haarlem