But Zelle’s seemingly idyllic childhood and the lavish gifts with which her father had indulged her came to an abrupt end when she was 13 years old. That’s because Adam had made unwise investments in the oil industry and subsequently lost his fortune. Then, to make matters even worse, Adam left Antje for a woman he’d been having an affair with.
And to top off this unwelcome disruption, Antje died in 1891, just a couple of years later. At the time, Zelle was only 15 years old. So it seems that for Zelle, family life had more or less disintegrated. She subsequently went to stay at the home of her godfather, a Mr. Visser, in the Dutch city of Sneek.
And Zelle soon found herself in the first of the many scrapes she’d get herself into over the years. Aged 16, you see, the young woman went to train as a kindergarten teacher at an institution in Leiden. But she additionally started an affair with the married headmaster of her school. And this principal started the pattern of powerful men exploiting Zelle during her lifetime.