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Wilhelmina Elisabeth Drucker (1847-1925) had an extraordinary life. Her childhood, as the illegitimate daughter of Amsterdam seamstress Constantia Lensing and wealthy, German-born banker Louis Drucker who never acknowledged Wilhelmina or her sister Louise, wasn’t unheard-of at the time, although in similar cases children would have carried their mother’s surname. (Formally, Wilhelmina Drucker did in fact use the name Lensing, to the extent that she would sign official documents as ‘Wilhelmina Elisabeth Lensing, living and writing under the name of W. Drucker’). Equally ‘common’ practice – though rather crass in itself – was the fact that at his death in 1884, father Drucker left the bulk of his millions to the five living children whose mother, i.e. one of his other mistresses, he had eventually decided to take as his lawful wife, while virtually neglecting Wilhelmina and Louise. As an unexpected turn, however, Wilhelmina Drucker, at 26 years of age, decided not to put up with such discrimination and initiated a series of incriminating publications in order to force her eldest half-brother Hendrik Lodewijk Drucker, a politically aspiring jurist, to yield a fair share of the inheritance to his half-sisters Wilhelmina and Louise. Strikingly, the extortion scheme finally paid off: in 1888 a settlement was reached that would secure Drucker’s financial independence for the rest of her life.

A remarkable story indeed, but what made it truly extraordinary, was the way Drucker decided to spend the money. Together with her tremendous energy and willpower she used it to support Dutch radical feminism on her own terms. For, through her experiences with the socialist movement, she had come to realize that feminist politics should steer clear of party politics to achieve its goal – to liberate women from male domination altogether. Whether Drucker’s financial independence was in fact instrumental to taking on inequality remains to be seen, but it certainly enabled her to pursue her goals for the rest of her life.

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  • Published: 16 June 2016
Last modified on 20 December 2016
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