The name Mama Cash still tickles the imagination and provokes curiosity. When Jessica Horn, Board member of Mama Cash since 2008, first heard the name Mama Cash, she thought: ‘What a fantastic name! Who is she?’ (watch interview) The name was created by Mieke van Kasbergen, who was working as a taxi driver in Amsterdam at the time. She was part of the extensive group of friends of the founders. The name was inspired by Cass Elliot, singer of the music group The Mamas and the Papas, and affectionately called by her nickname ‘Mama Cass’.
‘Mama Cash attracted me as a magnet’, says Will Janssen, who in the beginning of the 1990s first joined Mama Cash as an intern and later as Manager of the Culture Fund and the Fund of the Global South. ‘A fund for women, that was unique. And her independence! Mama Cash invested her own money in the stock and bond market to create more income. This was just not done at that time in the feminist movement’. Janssen was also attracted to Mama Cash’s international scope. This was an essential aspect of the progressive and feminist struggle. In preparation for the Fourth UN World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, Janssen visited several countries in the Global South. ‘Mama Cash managed to be known in all corners of the world’, Janssen says. ‘We were only a small fund, but wherever I went, women started cheering with enthusiasm’.
Joke Smit Award
Despite her pledge not to become a mainstream organisation, Mama Cash became popular with many different groups. She received a lot of media attention and appreciation. Not only was she appreciated by women receiving grants, but also by the general public and the Dutch government. In 1994, founder Marjan Sax personally received the Silver Carnation from Prince Bernhard. She received the award in honor of her many contributions to the women’s movement, not just to Mama Cash.
In 1996 Mama Cash was awarded the Joke Smit-Award, as a token of appreciation from the Dutch goverment.
Exuberance, creativity and a sense of humour
Among other funds as well Mama Cash took up a special position. Puerto Rico born Idelisse Malavé, member of the Mama Cash Board since 2007, met Mama Cash during a gathering of women’s funds in New York in the 1990s. ‘I thought the name was very catchy, not as oblique as those of some other funds. Mama Cash was playful’, Malavé declares. ‘She combined a serious cause with exuberance, creativity and a sense of humour. Mama Cash was unguarded and anarchistic. The joyfulness of the women of Mama Cash attracted me as a Puerto Rican’. Malavé was not the only one. During the meeting, the women’s funds had set up information stalls. They displayed piles of reports. Mama Cash’s stall, however, presented her information in the form of champagne glasses and other fun goodies. ‘Women swarmed to it, and in no time the table was empty’.
From 1994 to 2001, Marjan Sax was part of the Board of the American sister fund, the Global Fund for Women. She, too, remembers the difference in style. Sax: ‘Being the ‘bad girl’, I was the one who brought up topics such as the position of lesbian women and sex workers’ rights. After one of our meetings, I invited the party to join me at a lesbian demonstration, a so-called dyke march. In American English, dyke doesn’t only refer to an embankment to prevent water from flowing in; it is also slang for lesbian. Confused, a woman from Nepal asked me where the dyke was. I also took the other Board members of the Global Fund for Women to Good Vibrations, a sex shop for women in San Francisco. This was great fun. They weren’t exactly bewildered, yet they were rather surprised. Compared to Mama Cash, other funds were more cautious. Some would note that Mama Cash had Sax appeal.
A visit from Máxima
In December 2001, Máxima Zorreguieta, the then fiancée of crown prince Willem-Alexander, visited Mama Cash. She was doing an orientation tour and had shown curiosity about the way that Mama Cash supported women in the Netherlands and the Global South. Ten years later, during a speech for the National Postcode Lottery, the Princess still refers to the ‘most welcome reception’ she had received on that occasion. Mama Cash had become a leading and established organisation.
Mama Cash as a brand
Mama Cash’s first logo clearly captured the founders’ intentions: a cash register’s keys displaying the letters M A M A C A S H. This logo was soon replaced with the possibly less inspiring middle of a statue of a Greek goddess. Sax: ‘Mama Cash’s first logo has always been my favourite. At a certain moment, people thought it ‘old fashioned’ when a logo contained letters. They wanted to have a new logo showing an image. That’s how that silly belly came up’.
Who is S/he?
In 1999, graphic designer Esther Noyons designed the current letter logo and tag line. Below the words Mama Cash, it reads between brackets: (she changes the world). This is how the playful she-brand got started. Other tag lines included (she reports) on the cover of the annual report 1999, (she inspires you) on the annual report 2004, and (she has impact) on the annual report 2005. In 2001, the new house style won the prestigious House Style Award of the Foundation for Graphic Culture. In 2004, the posters for the Documentary Festival with the theme (Who is S/he?), and also designed by Esther Noyons, were purchased by the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum for contemporary art.
Her new house style inspired Mama Cash to maintain a high bar in terms of her visual brand. In 2005, for instance, a series of silhouettes of women’s heads in pastels was created. These were used for the 2006 annual report. When developing the new website in 2007, the organisation chose bright colours and photos of powerful women. When executive director Nicky McIntyre took office in 2008, Mama Cash displayed her forceful side. From that moment on, the covers of the annual reports show demonstrating women, loudly and clearly claiming their rights.