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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Aletta Jacobs

b. 1854, Sappemeer, Netherlands; d. 1929, Baarn, Netherlands

Aletta Jacobs was the first woman to attend a university and receive a medical degree in the Netherlands. As a physician, her work with destitute women led to one of her core missions, to make contraceptives available to women, which brought her into conflict with the Victorian attitudes of her colleagues in the medical profession. Jacobs supported the use of artificial birth control and in 1880 established the world’s first birth control clinic in Amsterdam. Her involvement in the suffrage movement began when the Dutch government denied her petition to vote, subsequently adding the adjective “male” to voting qualifications. In 1893, Jacobs co-founded the Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht (Woman Suffrage Alliance), acting as its president from 1903 until Dutch women were granted the franchise in 1919. A fervent pacifist, during World War I Jacobs formed the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)—considered one of the most significant women’s peace organizations of the twentieth century.