There are women rights activists and then there is Aletta Jacobs. A woman who did the unthinkable, broke the paradigm and inspired a whole new generation.
Google commemorates a revolutionary that was Aletta Jacobs on what would be her 163rd birthday. In that vein, a Google doodle picture of Aletta with a backdrop of a university alongside a square cap and a pencil was up on Feb. 9. It is no exaggeration to call Aletta a freethinker who broke the stereotype of 1800’s contemporary Netherlands. Not only did she revolutionize the education system, but also brought down the laws against women representation.
Aletta Jacobs: Contributions
Google recollects the contributions of the dynamic woman from misogynistic 1800’s Netherlands. As the daughter of a doctor, it was only normal that she wanted to tread on her father’s footsteps. However, Netherlands laws were against women pursuing high school, let alone medicine. Aletta wasn’t the one to let herself down by the prudishness of her society, of course. She went against all the odds, to put it short.
As she couldn’t attend the high school, she did independent study and cleared the assistant chemist examination in 1870. This alone was as far as any women could remotely dream of, but Aletta was no ordinary woman. Subsequently, she petitioned to the authorities seeking permission to pursue medicine. After getting the permission, she never looked back. Needless to say, she got a degree in medicine in 1879, thus becoming the first woman in Netherlands to do so.
This alone was an achievement in times as repressive as those, but her crusade had only just begun. In the wake of getting a medicinal degree, she became an advocate for women’s suffrage. Case in point, women didn’t have the right to vote in the elections and Aletta became a voice against such restrictions. Even during the times of war, she fought for women’s suffrage. Finally, she succeeded in bringing the right to vote on Aug. 9, 1919.
Aletta Jacobs: Legacy
Apart from her women rights activism, she was a strong voice for the use of contraception. Lest you forget, contraception was borderline taboo during those times. Not to mention, her own colleagues with the medicinal fraternity were against the idea. That certainly didn’t deter Aletta who not only made contraceptives widely available, but also set up birth control clinic. This was indeed world’s first birth control clinic.
After a decade and a half of advocating women’s suffrage and achieving it in 1919, she set up an organization. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – to promote harmony and emancipation for women in all spheres of life. No woman in history has had the amount of impact on feminism as Aletta does. Her life and work speak for themselves of the visionary in her.