Johanna van Rees-Vreede and her husband Otto were both idealists. Otto van Rees (1825-1868) was Professor of Constitutional Law at both Groningen and Utrecht universities. He took a keen interest in social issues and, early on, had what were considered to be modern opinions regarding the working class. He wrote in 1863: “The more well-to-do have a task to fulfil, one that is far from being taken sufficiently seriously: to enable the workers to educate and improve themselves. Let the workers develop their own power and momentum. If we keep treating them as minors, they will never be able to develop judgement and self-control or learn to be aware of their own strength.”(De Arbeidersvereenigingen,1863 Bro N656/8)
The van Rees account books (which cover the period 1855-1892) are testimony to this attitude.
In 1855 the couple donated 2.50 guilders to a scheme to educate the working class.
Once a week one guilder was donated to “the poor”, whether through “Israelitic” or “Evangelical” charities.
A "poor woman"got 2.50 guilders in 1855.
The couple always had at least two maids.
Apart from their weekly wage, Mietje, Elsje, Sientje, Naatje, Truida, Jaantje, Kika, Anna, and Cateau always received a bonus in May to visit the annual fair and in January for the New Year.
In 1880 Jaantje was paid four guilders in May and the same in January.
The couple also gave generous tips to the maids of relatives and friends.