Do you know who the first female student was?
During history lessons we are often taught that Aletta Jacobs was the Netherlands's first female student. But was she? We know that Aletta Jacobs was the first female student to graduate. The question whether she was the first female student, remains to be settled. Anyone who has heard of Anna Maria van Schurman, says not. Actually it was Anna Maria who was the first female student not only at the University of Utrecht, but also in the Netherlands and even in Europe.
‘The Dutch Minerva’
Anna Maria van Schurman was also known as 'The Dutch Minerva'. And with good reason: she was proficient in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syrian, Samaritan, Arabic and Ethiopian. On top of that, she excelled in theology, painting, sculpting, calligraphy and embroidery. A woman of many talents.
Cologne, November 1607
Cologne, November 1607. Anna Maria van Schurman was born. She had three elder brothers. At the age of three, Anna Maria and her family flee religious persecution. Before long, the family ends up in the Netherlands.
Latin for the elite...
During the Renaissance it was normal for the children of the elite to be home-schooled, as were Anna Maria's brothers. In 1618, they lived on the Dom Square. They were taught Latin, but they struggled with it. Anna Maria listened carefully as she worked at her French. When her brothers did not know the right answer, she yelled it across the room. Father Frederik was surprised. From then on, Anna Maria also took Latin lessons.
Latin for life
The decision to let Anna Maria learn Latin was essential to the rest of her life. To be admitted to educational institutes you had to be proficient in Latin as that was the language of instruction. Only young men who had learned Latin at school or at home could attend lectures.