Aletta Jacobs

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Aletta Jacobs
Aletta Jacobs3.jpg
Aletta Jacobs
Born Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs
9 February 1854
Sappemeer, Netherlands
Died 10 August 1929(1929-08-10) (aged 75)
Baarn, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Fields Medicine
Known for First Dutch female to complete a university degree (medical doctor)
Influenced Feminism and birth control in the Netherlands

Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs (Dutch pronunciation: [aːˈlɛtaː ɦɑ̃ːriˈɛtə ˈjaːkɔps]; 9 February 1854 – 10 August 1929) was a Dutch physician, women's suffrage activist, and inventor.[1] Born in the small village of Sappemeer in the Netherlands, she had many accomplishments in different fields such as women's suffrage, medicine, and lower class aid. Aside from all the accomplishments she made throughout her life, she was also the first female to officially attend a Dutch University and the first female physician in the Netherlands.[2]

Early Life and Education[edit]

Born on February 9, 1854 to Abraham Jacobs and Anna de Jongh, she had eleven siblings and was the eight youngest out of them. Her father was a country doctor from which she developed an interest to follow the field of medicine. As a child, she would go on many doctor visits with her dad and seeing all the help he brought to his patients made her pursue becoming a physician.[1]

Even though she dreamed of one day being a doctor like her father, education for women in the Netherlands at the time was a big struggle. Jacobs was able to finish primary school in 1867, but at the time no girl in Sappemeer was allowed to enter high school.[2] That did not stop Jacobs from learning though and in 1870 she passed the exam for assistant chemist. This allowed her to gain recognition and eventually was given permission on April 28, 1871 to attend the University of Groningen by minister of education J.R. Thorbecke. On March 8, 1879 Jacobs graduated from the university as the first female physician in the Netherlands.

Life After College[edit]

After graduating, Jacobs moved to London where she started meeting many feminists as well as birth control and suffrage activists. In London she was greatly influenced by new ideas, one being the need for women to have contraceptives available to prevent unwanted pregnancy.[3] Afterwards, she moved to Amsterdam where she set her own practice clinic for the lower class who could not afford other physicians.[1] Many women also began asking her for some form of conraception. She began thinking of ways to help with this problem and helped improve and perfect the diaphragm, also known as the Mensinga Pessary, which is why most people only accredit the invention to W.P.J. Mensinga.[4] Although Mensinga made the original diaphragm, Jacobs reached out to him and was able to make great contributions and changes to the design of the device to perfect it.[4]

Women's Suffrage and Death[edit]

After going to the International Council of Women's meeting in London on 1899, Jacobs decided to leave her medical practices and devote herself toward women's suffrage.[1] After the beginning of the First World War, Jacobs held an International Congress of Women in the Hague.[3] Throughout the war she continued to fight hard for women's suffrage and even up to her death still talked at different conferences. She died in Baarn, Netherlands on August 10, 1929.[1]


  • Memories: My Life as an International Leader in Health, Suffrage, and Peace

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Aletta Henriette Jacobs | Jewish Women's Archive". Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  2. ^ a b Eling, Paul (April 1, 2008). "Cerebral Localization in the Netherlands in the Nineteenth Century: Emphasizing the Work of Aletta Jacobs". Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. 
  3. ^ a b "Aletta Jacobs". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  4. ^ a b "Jacobs, Aletta – FREE Jacobs, Aletta information | Find Jacobs, Aletta research". Retrieved 2015-11-30.