April 1743 (age 55)
28 March 1799 (aged 55) Netherlands
Etta Lubina Johanna Palm d'Aelders (April 1743 – 28 March 1799) was a Dutch feminist outspoken during the French Revolution. She gave the address Discourse on the Injustice of the Laws in Favour of Men, at the Expense of Women to the French National Convention on 30 December 1790.
Module 5:Revolution and Gender, Revolutionary Culture
Etta Aelders was the daughter of Jacob Aelders van Nieuwenhuys, a merchant, and Agatha Petronella de Sitter. She was born in Groningen and received a good education, which was remarkable for a girl in her age in a non-aristocratic family. She married Christiaan Ferdinand Lodewijk Palm, the son of an attorney, in 1762. The marriage was not happy and Christiaan disappeared to the East Indies.
In 1768 she traveled with Jan Munniks, a young attorney, brother of the celebrated professor of botany Wynoldus Munniks, who had been appointed consul at Messina for the Dutch Republic to France, where she stayed behind because of illness. On the way she met Douwe Sirtema van Grovestins, a former equerry to the widow of Stadtholder William IV, Prince of Orange, who became her lover, and introduced her in higher circles. She left him in 1773 and moved to Paris, where she settled in the Palais Royal area, and became a courtesan for the better classes, taking a number of lovers. In these circumstances she was recruited for the French secret service, possibly by Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, comte de Maurepas himself. He sent her to The Hague in 1778 for a short mission, where she again met Jan Munniks, who himself now was a spy in British service.
The financial revenues of this mission enabled her to move to a grander house at the Rue Favard in Paris, where she set up a salon, where many "political" people met. From this time dates her affectation of the title of "baroness." Among these people were Dutchmen like Gerard Brantsen, who negotiated the peace between the Republic and Austria in Paris in 1784, and Apollonius Jan Cornelis Lampsins, a prominent Patriot, who sought refuge in France in 1787. Around this time she apparently started working for the Dutch Grand Pensionary Laurens Pieter van de Spiegel, to whom she became especially valuable after the events of 14 July 1789, when her salon was frequented by prominent revolutionaries like Jean-Paul Marat, François Chabot and Claude Basire.
Etta now became involved in revolutionary politics, and she was especially active in feminist circles, like the Société fraternelle de l'un et l'autre sexe, Société Patriotique des Amis de la Vérité , and Société Patriotique et de Bienfaisance des Amies de la Vérité ..
She set up shop in The Hague where she now spied on French émigrés like Beaumarchais and Dumouriez. However, events in France forced her to change sides again and she imposed on the Stadtholder himself, referring to her old services. Then in early 1795 the French revolutionary armies invaded the Netherlands. The Batavian Republic was proclaimed and Etta became suspect, because she tried to persuade the French representatives at the negotiations for the Treaty of The Hague (1795) to use the right of conquest to the detriment of the new Republic. These machinations, in cohorts with her old acquaintance Jan Munniks, brought her to the attention of the Hague Comité van Waakzaamheid (the Dutch equivalent of the French Comité de surveillance révolutionnaire). Munniks was sentenced to banishment, and Etta was put under arrest in the fortress of Woerden together with her old spymaster Van de Spiegel. She was released at the end of 1798, but her health had suffered so much, that she died the following March.