Papers Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs 1871-1974

Papers Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs 1871-1974

Identity Area

Collection IDIIAV00000081
Language ListFinding aid is in English / Taal van toegang is Engels
Language of MaterialEnglish/Engels
Extent1.36 m.
Processing InformationInventory by Annette Mevis in 2000
Numbers 640-648 added in 2017; no. 649 in 2018; nos. 650-657 in 2019; no. 658 in 2022
Access and UseVrij
Preferred CitationPapers Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs , inv.no …, Collection International Archives for the Women's Movement (IAV), in Atria, Institute on Gender Equality and Women’s History

Collection summary


Aletta Jacobs’ archive consists mostly of letters from women from many countries; it covers the period from 1876 to 1929. Most of these letters deal with several different subjects. Is was not possible to arrange them by just one subject. That’s why the greater part of the letters in this archive are arranged in alphabetical order, on the name of the writer: from Jane Addams to the Women’s Social and Political Union. Letters and other documents concerning just one subject are arranged under that subject.; It is not absolutely clear how and when the papers described here came in the possession of the IAV. In the preface of her Memories, first published in 1924, Jacobs writes ‘when I first started to read through my old letters and papers ..”. In this book, she mentiones correspondence with Bertha von Suttner, with William Stead, and Bjornstjerne Bjornson (Björnstjerne Björnson). Certainly not all the letters she received during her life have survived. There is, for example, no correspondence with her husband, as far as we know. Maybe she destroyed some papers herself when finishing her autobiography. When she died in 1929 in Baarn, her belongings were in the house of the Broese van Groenou’s in The Hague. Certainly some papers and objects stayed there, Mien van Wulfften Palthe was her only heir by testament 1923.; In 1930, May 20, Rosa Manus writes to Clara Hyde, the secretary of Carrie Chapman Catt, ‘Dr. Jacobs’ books have come to me now, and I am organising a real feministic library which I hope, will prove useful to the feminists.’ This library was founded in 1935 by Rosa Manus, W.H. Posthumus-van der Goot and Johanna Naber, and was called the International Archives for the Women’s Movement (IAV) in Amsterdam. In a letter to Posthumus-van der Goot from October 14, 1936, Rosa Manus writes from Montreux, Switzerland, that they have to open the ‘trunk Jacobs’, when she will be back in Amsterdam. The ‘First Annual Report of the International Archives for the Women’s Movement, from the foundation until the 1st of May 1937’, reports that Rosa Manus has given a big part of her own library, including very precious material from dr. Aletta H. Jacobs, to the International Archives (p. 166).; In February 1940, because of the threath of a war, several valuable papers were stored in a safety deposit box, among them a stack of letters to Aletta Jacobs, as is written on a list: 'papers concerning trips to various governments in 1915; Notes of Scandinavian visits by C. MacMillan; Visit to London by E. Balch and C. MacMillan; Separet pakket: various important documents; Letters: mixed-Jane Addams-Rachel Foster Avery-A. Jacobs to L. Anthony-Gräfin v. Moltke-Rose Innes- Emily Hobhouse-H. Mercier-Kate C. Mead-Olive Schreiner”. On July 2, 1940, an abrupt end came to the flourishing beginning of the IAV: the German Sicherheitsdienst knocked on the door of the IAV, told the two women who were present to leave, and sealed the door. A few days later the Germans removed the complete content of the IAV to Germany.; After the war, in 1947, only one tenth of the material came back. The board of the IAV claimed the damage of the missing books, archives and furniture by the ‘Schade-Enquête-Commissie’. Among the claims was correspondence of Aletta Jacobs. But the documents in the safe as mentioned on the list were still present after the war.; Other archival material of Jacobs, however, had been taken by the Germans in 1940. We know since 1992, when it became clear that in a special archive in Moscow a lot of archives from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, etc. was stored there since 1945. When the Russians liberated the east of Europe, they took these items with them as spoils of war. The Russians have given back these archives in 2003. They are described in the inventory numbers 140, 149-151, 176-177, 195, 205, 210, 272, 397, 409, 412, 414-415, 419-421, 426, 449-450, 530, 549, 556, 563, 581, 583 and 593. Finally, some letters and photographs of Aletta Jacobs were donated in 1961 by E. Coops-Broese van Groenou, The Hague.

Biographical Note / Biografie

Aletta Henriëtte Jacobs was born on February 9, 1854 in Sappemeer, as the eighth child of a jewish doctor’s family. Her parents were Anna de Jongh and Abraham Jacobs. At the age of thirteen she left the village school. The ladies’ school she attended thereafter became a nightmare for her, and after two weeks she refused to return to school. Aletta then stayed at home; during the day her mother taught her housework, while in the evenings she learned French and German. Later on her father taught her Latin and Greek. In 1869, for the first time, a girl had taken the admission examination to become a pharmacist’s assistant; Aletta Jacobs did the same in 1870. After some efforts she was permitted to attend classes at Groningen University for a period of one year, she started on April 20, 1871. On May 30, 1872 her request for permanent admission was granted. (See inv.no. 596.) In October 1876 she continued her study at Amsterdam University. She received her medical degree on April 2, 1878, and her medical doctorate on March 8, 1879. During these years Jacobs became concerned with social injustice; among other things, she learned how absurd the Dutch marriage laws were.

In March 1879 she went to London for a few months. She had decided to go to London because she had read in British women’s magazines about how professors, doctors, and students were actively sabotaging women’s attempts to study medicine in England. She returned to Amsterdam to attend the conference on the advancement of medical science on September 8-15. Afterwards she began to practice as a doctor on the Herengracht, in the house of a widow from whom she rented a few rooms.

Through B.H. Heldt, leader of the Dutch General Trade Union, Jacobs was introduced to other members of the trade union’s board. In the winter of 1880 Heldt made available several rooms in the union’s building, so that Jacobs could offer a course for women to teach them the rudiments of hygiene and the rudiments of caring for infants. One result of these classes was that she decided to hold a free clinic two mornings a week for destitute women and children, a practice she continued for fourteen years. These free clinics for poor women brought her in close contact with the issue of birth control. Early 1882 she read about the use of the Mensinga pessary, which from then on she always prescribed. She maintained her clinic until 1904, when she celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of her doctorate in medicine on March 8, afterwhich she retired from her practice.

Despite the fact that Jacobs fulfilled all the necessary conditions for enfranchisement, she was not sent a ballot like everyone else. When in 1883 her name was not on the just published new voter registration, she decided to sent a letter to the mayor and councillors of Amsterdam. Her request was refused, because it was the ‘spirit’ of the law not to extend suffrage to women. A result of this decision, and because of the Supreme Court’ rejection of her appeal, the adjective ‘male’ was added before ‘Dutch citizen’ whenever enfranchisement was mentioned.

In 1894 the Dutch Association for Woman’s Suffrage was established. Jacobs became president of the Amsterdam branch in 1895. In 1903 she accepted the association’s leadership. In 1919 votes for women became a legal reality in the Netherlands. Jacobs also worked for the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA). Among other things she made two trips with Carrie Chapman Catt to help women in their fight for woman suffrage. In September 1906 they travelled to Austria-Hungary and from June 1911 till November 1912 through Africa and Asia.

Jacobs detested war and viewed armed violence as an unmitigated evil. In 1898 she participated in the first international peace conference hosted by the Netherlands. At first, Jacobs did little work for pacifism, although she always accompanied her husband, Carel Victor Gerritsen (1850-1905), whenever he attended the meetings of the Interparliamentary Union. When the first world war started in 1914, Jacobs became more active because she wanted to call on women from every nation to protest against the horrors of war. The German women decided to abandon their plans to hold an International Woman Suffrage Alliance conference in Berlin in June 1915. Instead, Jacobs, with the help of many other women, organized the International Congress of Women, in The Hague, from April 28 till May 1. At the end of the conference, it was decided that a women’s deputation would present the resolutions both to the neutral countries and to those at war. Jacobs and Jane Addams assumed responsibility for most of the work involved.

In 1919 Aletta Jacobs moved to The Hague. First she lived on her own, in the Van Aerssenstraat 46, from October 1928 she lived with Mien and Richard van Wulfften Palthe-Broese van Groenou. She died on August 10, 1929 in a hotel in Baarn, during a visit to Rosa Manus.


Letters, in alphabetical order, amongst others from Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw 1876-1928 and n.y.; travel documents 1910-1915; documents concerning the International Congres of Women in The Hague1915 with letters from Emily Balch, Jane Addams en Emily Hobhouse ; documents concerning peace missions 1915-1916; report of the visit to president W. Wilson 1915; received letters concerning birth control, mainly from American women 1920; documents concerning her golden doctors' celebration and her seventyfifth birthday 1929; cuttings concerning Aletta Jacobs 1872, 1904-1956; records of the 'Comité ter eering van de nagedachtenis van Dr. Aletta H. Jacobs' 1935-1936; documents concerning the commemoration of her hundredth birthday1954. In 2017 the Aletta Jacobs Papers were added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

Inventory / Inventaris


Received letters and postcards.
NB. In alphabetical order; sometimes received as president of the Association for Women’s Suffrage; most letters concerning more than one subject.
Addams, Jane. English. 1915-1916, 1919, 1922-1923, 1925.. 10 items.
Alden, Cynthia Westover see inv.no. 192-193..
Anthony, Lucy E. English. 1904-1906, 1908, 1910, 1914-1915.. 11 items.
Anthony, Susan B. English. 1904-1905.. 3 items.
Avery, Rachel Foster. English. 1906, 1908-1910.. 9 items.
Barrows, Samuel J. see inv.no. 191..
Björnson, Björnstjerne (Bjornstjerne Bjornson). German. 1899, 1907.. 3 items.
Catt, Carrie Chapman. English.1905-1915, 1918-1921.. 82 items.
Cauer, Minna. German. 1920.. 5 items.
Coit, Adela Stanton. English. 1907, 1910.. 3 items.
Comité “De Europeesche Statenbond” see inv.no. 382-383..
Committee of Women Graduates of the Scottish Universities see inv.no. 208-209..
Crowe, Martha Foote see inv.no. 26..
Danske Kvindeforeningers Valgretsforbund see inv.no. 261..
Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, The see inv.no. 134.
Gannett, Mary T.L. see inv.no. 379..
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. English. 1902, 1904-1905.. 4 items.
Gripenberg, Alexandra. English. 1892-1893.. 2 items.
Grundel, Oscar Q. see inv.no 206..
Gunderson, Ida. German. 1916.. 2 items.
Harper, Ida Husted. English. 1907-1908.. 4 items.
Hauser, Elizabeth. see inv.no. 263..
Heldt, B.H. Dutch. 1881, 1885.. 2 items.
Hobhouse, Emily. English. 1915-1916, 1920, 1925.. 14 items.
Houten, S. van . Dutch. 1882, 1909.. 3 items.
Illinois Equal Suffrage Association see inv.no. 210-211 and 380..
Innes, Jessie. English. 1914-1915, 1918-1919.. 6 items.
Innes, J. Rose. English. 1914, 1919.. 2 items.
Innes, M. Rose. English. 1919-1920.. 4 items.
International Sunshine Society – Cynthia Westover Alden. English. 1901.. 2 items.
Kerdijk, A. Dutch. 1888, 1896.. 2 items.
Key, Ellen. 1905 and n.d.. 2 items.
Kol, Nellie van. Dutch. 1895-1897.. 3 items.
Lawrence, E. Pethick see inv.no. 396..
Levy, dr. Albert see inv.no. 397..
Macmillan, Chrystal J. – Committee of Women Graduates of the Scottish Universities. English. 1908.. 2 items.
McCulloch, Catharine Waugh – Illinois Equal Suffrage Association. English. 1908.. 2 items.
Mead, Kate C. English. 1927.. 2 items.
Mercier, Helene. Dutch. 1883-1908.. 28 items.
NB. Sometimes difficult to identify the date and it is not always certain whether the envelope belongs to the letter.
Moltke, Dorothy von. English and German. 1914, 1916, 1919-1920.. 16 items.
Nationale Vrouwenraad van Nederland see inv.no. 262..
Pankhurst, E. , The Women’s Social and Political Union. English. 1910-1911.. 2 items.
Richardson, D.M. see inv.no. 395..
Roderick, Virginia see inv.no. 392-293.
Samuel, Beatrice M. English. 1900, 1905.. 2 items.
Schreiner, Olive. English. 1911-1920.. 22 items.
Sewall, May Wright. English. 1904.. 2 items.
Shaw, Anna Howard. English. 1905-1918.. 71 items.
Spitzer, Marie. German. 1902.. 2 items.
Stanton, Theodore. English. 1882.. 2 items.
Suchtelen, Nico van – Comité “De Europeesche Statenbond”. Dutch, German and English. 1914.. 1 item, 1 folder.
Vrolik, W.(Willem) K.M. and Agnites Vrolik. Dutch. 1889-1891.. 6 items.
Wells, Emmeline B. see inv.no. 394.
Welt-Liga für Sexual Reform see inv.no. 207.
Woman Citizen, The Virginia Roderick. English. 1924-1925.. 2 items.

Manuscripts and publications.

Silver doctor jubilee 1904.

Journey to Budapest 1906.
NB. See also inv.no. 53-58.

World Tour 1911-1912.
NB. See also inv.no. 84-93.
Fan in a glass holder, Jacobs received from Chinese women in 1912.. 1 item.
NB. View the fan.

Peace Mission 1915.
NB. See also inv.no. 1-3.

Travel documents.


Travel reports and statements.

Visit to Berlin 1919.

Reactions on ‘Keeping the stork in its place’ 1920.
Received letters, asking for information and help with birth control, most of them with envelope and sometimes a return envelope is included. In alphabetical order. Dutch and English. 1920, January-October.. 80 items.

Seventieth birthday 1924.

Seventy-fifth birthday 1929.

Golden doctor jubilee 1929.
Received letters and telegrams of congratulations. Dutch and English. 1929.. 8 items.

Leather file with the name ‘Dr Aletta H. Jacobs’ on it..
NB. View the file.

Cuttings concerning her life and work, published during her life.


Letters and postcards written by Aletta Jacobs.
NB. See also inv.no. 213.
Letters to Lucy E. Anthony. English. 1928.. 2 items.
Letters to Estella Simons. Dutch. 1926, 1929.. 2 items.

Cuttings concerning Jacobs, published after her death, 1929-1974.

Records of the ‘Comité ter Eering van de Nagedachtenis van Dr Aletta Jacobs’.

Records of the ‘Dr. Aletta Jacobs Filmfonds’.

Photocopies of letters to Jacobs in other repositories.

Photocopies of letters from Jacobs in other repositories.
Letters to the Broese van Groenou Family. Dutch. 1909-1929.. 1 item.
NB. Originals in the Municipal Archives of The Hague. Gift from Inge de Wilde in 2019.
Letters to Jane Addams. English. 1915-1916, 1919, 1922-1928.. 24 items.
NB. Originals in the Jane Addams Collection, Swarthmore College, PA.

Collection of Tom and Maddy de Clercq Zubli.
Collected documents (originals and photocopies) on Aletta Jacobs and Victor Gerritsen. 1907-2008.. 1 pack.
NB. Received in 2019 from Maddy de Clercq Zubli.
Collected documents (originals and photocopies) on Abraham Jacobs and Anna de Jongh, on Julius Jacobs and Antonia Wilhelmina Bosch, om Jeanne Jacobs and Jacobus de Clercq Zubli, on Margot Jacobs and Constantijn Ferguson, and on Julie Jacobs and Henri van Hooff, and their family members. ca. 1800-1960.. 1 pack.
NB. Received in 2019 from Maddy de Clercq Zubli.
Collected documents (originals and photocopies) on Jeanne Jacqueline Henriette Elizabeth Marguerite Jacobs (1878-1949) and Jacobus de Clercq Zubli (1874-1959), who married at the house of Charlotte Jacobs in 1898, and on family members. ca. 1870-1945.. 1 pack.
NB. Received in 2019 from Maddy de Clercq Zubli.
Collected documents (originals and photocopies) on Julie Caroline Jacobs (1882-1947) and Henri Wilhelm Stefaan van Hooff (1875-1948), married 6 July 1901, and on family members. ca. 1900-1960.. 1 pack.
NB. Received in 2019 from Maddy de Clercq Zubli.
Collected documents (originals and photocopies) on Carlotte Jacobs (1847-1916). ca. 1900-2000.. 1 pack.
NB. Received in 2019 from Maddy de Clercq Zubli.
Book De gedichten van den schoolmeester, published bij J. van Lennep, seventh edition (Amsterdam 1875), with the name of Aletta Jacobs crossed out and the name of J. de Clercq Zubli witten underneath. 1875.. 1 item.
NB. Received in 2019 from Maddy de Clercq Zubli.
Descriptions of diseases by Julius Jacobs. German, Dutch. 1880 and n.y.. 1 item.
NB. Received in 2019 from Maddy de Clercq Zubli.