The line of buildings in front of you forms the far edge of one of the oldest sections of the University of Amsterdam. To this day, its students hear about Aletta Jacobs, who was the first Dutch woman to enroll in university and studied at the University of Amsterdam to become the country’s first female doctor. In fact, Aletta’s entire life was ground-breaking.
Aletta placed her fervent dedication to equality at the center of everything she did. She opened a huisarts (GP) practice that treated the working poor for free. In response to what she saw there, she campaigned for better working conditions and access to birth control, which she also provided to the poor women who came to her practice.
She and her husband practiced “free marriage”, a new form of marriage that included Aletta keeping her name, continuing to work and maintaining a separate suite in the house they shared. She was at the center of the international struggle for women’s voting rights and was key to Dutch women securing the vote in 1919. Her papers formed the basis of ATRIA, the Dutch archive dedicated to women’s history and emancipation. It’s just one of Aletta’s many legacies that continue to this day.