Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Aletta Jacobs on a Peace Mission in Berlin

No footage of the Dutch feminist and medical doctor Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929) was known until November 2013, when 20 seconds of moving images surfaced and were repeatedly shown in the media. They show Aletta walking through Berlin near the Brandenburger Tor in 1915 (see below). She was in the German capital as peace activist to plead with the German government to bring the war to a quick end.  

The background of the action in Berlin can be found at the IISH, in the small archive of the Dutch Anti-War Council (NAOR), of which Aletta Jacobs was one of the founders. The NAOR was founded on October 8, 1914, with the aim of the earliest possible termination of the war and a peace agreement that  would not lead to new war. The founders and members of the Council came from the upper class, but tens of thousands of ordinary Dutch people were registered as supporters.
Important was the International Meeting, organized by the NAOR in The Hague from April 7-10, 1915. Here a ‘Minimum Program of the Central Organization for a Lasting Peace’ was adopted.
In the same spring an International Congress of Women was held from April 28 to May 1 , 1915  in the congress hall of the zoo in The Hague. The governments of the United Kingdom and the United States were fiercely opposed to this congress. A large number of British women was forbidden to make the journey, and the American participants were delayed in reaching the Netherlands. 

Key players in this congress were Aletta Jacobs and the American Jane Addams, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Both women went on tour to offer the resolution adopted by the congress to politicians of the belligerent countries. Neutral countries like Switzerland were visited as well;  Aletta Jacobs was present mid-1915 at an international meeting in Berne named “Future interests of humanity.” In the recently discovered footage, Jacobs and Addams are in the company of the German feminist and politician Gertrud Bäumer in Berlin.
In the meetings of the NAOR, Aletta Jacobs repeatedly took a firm stand. Remarkably, she didn’t openly report on her journey through various European capitals. The minutes contain no word of her visit to Berlin. But Aletta Jacobs is brighter in tone and content than the other members of the Council and she refers repeatedly on her “stay in the belligerent countries.” After all, she got the impression that “the neutrals who are still reluctant for mediation are mocked.” “Are we waiting until no one survives on both sides or until one of the parties succeeds in destroying the other party completely?” According to her, the neutral countries had to take steps immediately.

The highlight of NAOR activities came in 1915, but Aletta Jacobs did not stop advocating peace. From April 28—29, 1917 the National Congress of the Dutch Committee of Women for a Lasting Peace was held in The Hague. At a report of this meeting Aletta Jacobs published the brochure De Vrouw en de Vredesbeweging in verband met het Vrouwenkiesrecht, (Women and the Peace Movement in relation to Women’s Suffrage) (IISG Bro N461/190).

The documents in the NAOR archive were received from Ms Th. A. van Eck and from Aletta Jacobs herself. The archive contains minutes from the monthly meetings in Pulchri Studio at the Lange Voorhout in The Hague, as well as circulars, leaflets, and calls to peace received from abroad.

See also: War and Peace Collection Guide


26 November 2013