The Margaret Sanger Papers


Jacobs, Aletta (1854-1929)

Dutch physician, suffragist and peace activist. Married to Carel Victor Gerritsen (1892-1905), one child. Jacobs was the first woman in the Netherlands to receive a medical degree. In 1881 she helped found the Nieuw-Malthusiaansche Bond (Dutch Neo-Malthusian League), and the following year opened a free clinic which provided medical assistance and birth control information to working women. Jacobs operated the clinic until 1893, but became increasingly involved in feminist political activities and in 1904 retired from medical practice. In 1901 Jacobs helped found the Vrijzinnig Democratische Bond (Liberal Democratic Union), which advocated universal suffrage. She also translated Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Women and Economics (1900) and Olive Schreiner's Woman and Labor (1910) into Dutch. Jacobs served as chairperson of the Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiescrecht (Dutch branch of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance) from 1903-1919, and in 1908 organized the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Conference in Amsterdam. She also headed the Dutch delegation to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance and travelled to Africa and Asia with American suffrage leader, Carrie Chapman Catt. During World War I, Jacobs, a pacifist, organized anti-war efforts at the 1915 International Congress of Women held at the Hague. Sanger attempted to meet Jacobs during her 1915 trip to the Netherlands, but Jacobs refused to meet with Sanger and discuss birth control with a non-physician. She did, however, attended the Sixth International Neo-Malthusian and Birth Control Conference organized by Sanger in New York in 1925. Jacobs published her autobiography, Memories, in 1924.
References: Aletta Jacobs, Memories: My Life as an International Leader in Health, Suffrage, and Peace (translated by Annie Wright, edited by Harriet Feinberg, Feminist Press, 1996).