Suzanne Silvercruys (Wikimedia Commons)

“Little Belgian Girl” saves Belgians from starvation

A new book sheds light on the life of Suzanne Silvercruys.  During the Great War Suzanne, who hails from Maaseik (Limburg), became known as the “Little Belgian Girl” as she collected funds in the US in support of the victims of the Great War.

“During the First World War Suzanne ended up in the US together with her sister and her older husband.  By this time the Relief Fund Belgium had been set up to collect funds to provide famine relief for people in Belgium” says Marcel Cuyx, author of “Suzanne Silvercruys: an exceptional woman from Maaseik”.

The fund received widespread support given the indignation about the suffering in Belgium as a result of the war.

“When Suzanne attended a meeting, the billed speaker never turned up.  She was asked to speak and at the age of 16 and addressed the crowd of 800 says Cuyx.  “There she related what she had heard and seen: the story of massacres in Belgium and how the city of Leuven stood ablaze”.

Within seconds the crowd hung on her every word and her talk ended with a standing ovation.  Funds were collected and she received an invitation from the Belgian ambassador in Washington.  She was then asked to address schools and other associations to help collect more funds. Suzanne Silvercruys became the figurehead of a major fundraiser and she was instrumental in helping to channel large amounts of funds to Europe.

Even after the war she remained active studying sculpture at Yale University and making sculptures of President Hoover, Queen Astrid of the Belgians and actress Audrey Hepburn, who was born in Brussels.  Her works are still on show in museums and universities across the globe.

'Suzanne Silvercruys: een uitzonderlijke Maaseiker vrouw' is available from the Maaseik Documentation Centre.

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