Parkweg 9a, 2585 JG, The Hague
This Hague-Indian villa reminds us of the philanthropic family that supported women’s rights and peace campaigner Aletta Jacobs. Mien van Wulfften accompanied her in an informal diplomatic mission for mediation in the First World War.
“The facts have taught her (Bertha von Suttner) that only when women would have direct influence upon national government, wars could be prevented.”
– Aletta Jacobs
The philanthropist Wolter Broese van Groenou (1842-1924) commissioned this villa, called Our Home in Esperanto, in 1908 from his architect son Dolf. Through Mien van Wulfften (1875-1960), an actress and feminist, also Aletta Jacobs was a regular guest.
Dr. Aletta Jacobs (1854-1929) was the first female physician in the Netherlands, a pioneer of social healthcare and lifelong campaigner for women’s rights. As a pacifist, she had an ongoing debate with Bertha von Suttner, who urged her to give full priority to disarmament. But at the end of her life, Von Suttner fully supported Jacobs’ struggle for voting rights.
After the outbreak of war in 1914, Jacobs took the initiative to convene an International Congress of Women in neutral Holland, with mathematician Dr. Chrystal McMillan from Edinburgh and sociologist Jane Addams from Chicago. Despite the war blockades, 1136 women from 12 countries gathered in April 1915 in the big hall of the Hague Zoo. The congress adopted a range of demands for durable peace, starting with mediation to stop the war.
In May-June 1915, an international women’s delegation led by Jacobs, Addams and McMillan, visited government leaders of the warring and neutral countries. Van Wulfften, who accompanied Jacobs because of her poor health, also took part in the talks, even trying to convert Pope Benedict XV to the feminist cause. Although most governments showed interest in US mediation, president Woodrow Wilson refused to commit himself in any direction. In the end, Wilson did include some of the demands in his ‘Fourteen Points’ for the post-war world, such as the founding of the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1921 (with seat in the Peace Palace).
After the war, the congress went on as Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The Nobel Peace Prize, awarded to Addams in 1931, was also a posthumous tribute to Jacobs. Until her death in 1929, she spent her last years with Mien van Wulfften and her husband Richard (Tobias Asserlaan 5). One of the last WILPF initiatives she attended in the 1920’s was the ongoing campaign to ban gas warfare. An indirect tribute to those efforts is the Nobel Peace Prize of 2013 for the neighbouring Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) (Johan de Wittlaan 32).