Hundred years since first woman entered Dutch parliament

Today, on the 17th of September, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the appointment of the first female Member of Parliament in the Netherlands. Her name was Suze Groeneweg. Groeneweg was a prominent figure within the women’s suffrage movement.

Poster 'Women's voting rights,' 1918 by Theo Molkenboer

Poster 'Women's voting rights,' 1918 by Theo Molkenboer

Suze Groeneweg

Suze Groeneweg was a member of the Social Democratic Labour Party. She entered the House of Representatives as the only female among 99 other male colleagues. Interestingly, she was elected without votes from any women because women had only gained passive suffrage in the Netherlands in 1917, the year in which men were given the right to vote. Two years later, in 1919, women above the age of 25 also gained voting rights.

Groeneweg advocated for paid labour for women and stood against the dismissal of female civil servants based on the mere fact that they got married. Other issues she concerned herself with included disarmament, prevention of alcoholism, and education.

Aletta Jacobs and Anglo-Dutch exchanges

It is no coincidence that Dutch women celebrated the right to vote a year after the British women's suffragettes gained their voting rights in the United Kingdom. Aletta Jacobs, the first Dutch woman to complete a postgraduate doctoral degree in medicine, had established close contacts with British suffragist, including Millicent Fawcett (recently chosen as the most influential woman in 100 years of British history), when she worked in London for a few months in 1879. Jacobs exchanged knowledge with female doctors working at the London Medical School for Women. This exchange was significant for her medical career as she became an activist for the practice of birth control and the abolition of prostitution.

Another series of Anglo-Dutch exchanges happened between Jacobs and inspiring suffragist Dora Montefiore who was invited to conferences in Amsterdam in 1908. Montefiore’s famed slogan was: ‘Taxation without representation is Tyranny.’ Not much later, suffragettes from various countries collaborately started campaigning for women's voting rights. They set up the International Woman Suffrage Alliance.