Abstract

In this article, Mineke Bosch analyzes from a postcolonial perspective the travel letters Aletta Jacobs wrote during the “world suffrage tour” she made with Carrie Chapman Catt from 1911 to 1912. Following the historical assessments of the imperialist dimension of British suffrage feminism at the turn of the century, the question Bosch tackles is not so much whether Jacobs’s international feminism stood the test of imperialism, but how her feminism looked when crossing the border between West and East. The letters, which were addressed to the general Dutch public, show a wholehearted compliance with Dutch national rhetoric and colonial practice, as well as an incorporation of contemporary imperialist and racist discourse into her feminist observations. Given the nature of Dutch colonial and imperialist rhetoric, which stressed the internationalist mission the small country of the Netherlands had among the big powers, Jacobs’s compliance with it was not counter to but in accordance with her internationalist feminism. Jacobs’s knowledge and wielding of imperialist discourse as revealed in the letters, therefore, should be understood as a strategic means in her political goal of gaining full citizenship for Dutch women, instead of as the unconscious internalization of contemporary ideas extrinsic to feminism.