Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929)

Aletta Jacobs made history by becoming the first female student and doctor in the Netherlands. She was the daughter of a doctor and had already decided at an early age what she wanted to be. However, Prime Minister Thorbecke had to grant his permission for her admittance to the University of Groningen. She came to Amsterdam in 1876 to take her doctor’s exam and rented a room from a widow on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, near to the Binnengasthuis where she did her practical hospital training. After successfully passing her medical exams in 1878 she completed her studies with a doctorate in Groningen and then returned to Amsterdam to work as a general practitioner. After her marriage Aletta Jacobs lived on Tesselschadestraat 15 for a number of years. As well as working at her doctor’s practice in the city centre she gave free consultations in the Jordaan, where she provided labourers’ wives with advice on hygiene and family planning. She was an active member of the Nieuw-Malthusiaanse Bond and she propagated their vision, encouraging birth control. The miserable living conditions in the Jordaan concerned Jacobs greatly. She got her friend Hélène Mercier – pioneer in the area of public housing – to assist her in making the terrible circumstances known. Aletta Jacobs also fought tirelessly for women’s suffrage for many years.