Aletta Jacobs, a living legend?

gepubliceerd : 14 March 2014

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She was the first female who graduated from a Dutch university and became a doctor. She fought for the right to vote for women, for peace, and for the possibility of birth control. She fought for women rights not only in the Netherlands, but also in other countries. Aletta Jacobs has not been forgotten since her death in 1929. Until today she is a source of inspiration. Besides she has a statue in front of the Harmony building, also many institutes, streets, schools and prizes  are named after her. One particular student in Groningen is also named Aletta Jacobs. A good reason for GroningenLife! to take a look in the life of the ‘modern’ Aletta, a 24-year old student Romanic Languages and Cultures. Born and raised in the city of Groningen. 

First of all the main question, are you related to this fighter for woman rights?
“Haha, I get this question very often. But I’m not in a direct way related to Aletta Jacobs. Not that I know.”

That’s a shame. Do you get confronted a lot with your famous name?
“People always respond to my name. Some people make fun of it, some people don’t believe it. I’m studying in Italy for one semester, and they aren’t familiar with the name here. But when I went to high school in Groningen, all the teachers knew there was an Aletta Jacobs around. They thought it was really funny. Sometimes people ask me if I have ever heard of Aletta Jacobs. Of course I’ve heared of her, stupid question.”

Did your parents named you after Aletta Jacobs, or did it all happen by coincidence?
“I’m not named after the famous Aletta Jacobs on purpose. I don’t have an aunt who’s called Aletta and I don’t have a feminist mother or something like that haha. My parents liked the name Aletta, and the combination with Jacobs sounds good because it’s familiar. The fact that she’s famous is a funny coincidence.”

Is the famous Aletta Jacobs an inspiration to you, or are you not really interested?
“When I was in primary school I held a presentation about Aletta Jacobs, and when I was in high school I read a lot of books about her. I read books about her life, and books that she wrote. At that time I wanted to do something like she, because it is an honor to have the same name. But now I’m older she is not that inspiring anymore. I’m not a feminist, I don’t feel like I have to make a difference like she did, and I’m not going to study medicine for example.”


So she’s not your idol, but do you see any similarities, do you share the same interests?
“I don’t think so. I’m studying Romanic Languages and Cultures, she studied medicine. She was very driven to make the world a better place for women. I would like to make the world a better place, but not especially for women. I want to improve the quality of life, for example by working voluntary. At the moment I volunteer at festivals. I think that’s important, and I really like doing it. Aletta Jacobs always knew what she wanted to become, I still don’t have a clue haha.”      

You study at the same university as she studied, the university of Groningen. Why did you choose Groningen?
“I lived in Groningen until I was 13, when my parents moved to Norg (a small village in Groningen). I had a lot of friends in Groningen, so I wanted to go to high school in Groningen. Many friends began their studies in Groningen after that, so it was an easy choice. And Groningen is a lot of fun, it’s an awesome city!

So you are a born and raised citizen of Groningen. What do you like most about the city?
“It’s not that big, when you go out shopping you always meet someone you know. Living in a student house was really exciting, I felt at home really fast.”

You’ve left the city to study in Italy for one semester, what’s your next plan of action after this adventure?
“If all goes well, I can call myself a Bachelor after this year. After that I’m not sure what will be the next step. Maybe a master, maybe start a working life. It’s also possible that I will move to Canada, because my boyfriend lives there. I could start working or studying there. I’m thinking about my options.”

Any tips for new students?
“Enjoy your student life, because time goes by very fast. Enjoy Groningen, it’s a beautiful city!”

By Beppie van der Sluis