Feminism in the 19th century

In the nineteenth century, the contours of a feminist political movement became visible. Feminism became an official concept and the first feminist wave began in 1850. The spearheads of the women's movement were equality in education, labor and electoral rights.

Feminism in the 19th century

First wave

The first feminist wave is the name for a period that lasted from around 1850 to 1940. The wave was characterized by the pursuit of legal equal rights for women. The emphasis was on the right to education and paid work. Later this shifted to political rights with a focus on women's suffrage - from 1890 to 1920 the highlight of the first feminist wave.

Women's suffrage

Women's suffrage was an important spearhead of the women's movement. Aletta Jacobs is seen as one of the most important champions in the Netherlands (and beyond) for women's suffrage. The fight for women's suffrage started in the nineteenth century, but it took until the beginning of the twentieth century before women's suffrage was officially introduced in The Netherlands.


Feminism is a word that comes from French. It is derived from the Latin word line 'femina', which means 'woman'. As far as we know, the words 'féminisme' and 'féminist' in the Netherlands and France were first used in 1872 by a letter from the Dutch feminist pioneer Mina Kruseman to the French writer Alexandre Dumas. In the late nineteenth century, feminism became an officially used term.

Feminism in the 19th century