Aletta Jacobs and the Dutch Cap: the Transfer of Knowledge and the Making of a Reputation in the Changing Networks of Birth Control Activists

Mineke Bosch

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    A close review of Aletta Jacobs's actions in the international birth control movement reveals that they have been exaggerated in most historiographical representations. Thus the unsubstantiated claim that the pessary known as 'Dutch cap' was named that way due to Aletta Jacobs's interventions on behalf of anti-conception could not be confirmed. Ironically the overemphasis on Jacobs's role in birth control hinges on her reputation as international leader in suffrage and peace, but also on stereotypical images of Dutch domesticity and common sense. Relativizing her pioneering activities does not diminish Jacobs's role in history, but makes for a more collective and more interesting view of the past. In this view there is also room for two male doctors, the Dutch/German Wilhelm Mensinga, who experimented with birth control in his practice in Flensburg long before Aletta Jacobs did so, and Dr. Jan Rutgers, the long time populariser of birth control techniques in the Dutch Neo-Malthusian Association.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)167-183
    Number of pages23
    JournalBulletin of the German Historical Institute
    Issue numbersuppl 13
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Aletta Jacobs birth control anti-conception, transnational transfer, feminist international

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