Lovisa Åhrberg

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Maria Lovisa Aarberg
Jungfru åberg.png
Born 17 May 1801
Died 26 March 1881
Residence Stockholm, Sweden
Occupation doctor, surgeon
Possibly the first female doctor in Sweden.

Maria Lovisa Åhrberg or Årberg (17 May 1801 in Uppsala,[1] – 26 March 1881 in Stockholm,[2]), was a Swedish surgeon and doctor. She was the first recognised female doctor in Sweden. She was a doctor and a surgeon already in the 1820s, long before it was formally permitted for women in 1870. The only identified earlier female medical practitioner in Sweden, who may have had such an official recognition, was Kisamor, who did not, however, have any formal medical training.


Lovisa was born in Uppsala in Uppland. Her father worked as a caretaker. It seems her mother was a nurse; in the beginning of the 19th century, nurses were merely uneducated helpers to the doctors, but Lovisa was said to have often followed her mother to the hospitals and was, by observation, as well educated by her medical observations as she would have been as a student. Both her mother and her maternal grandmother were active in nursing.

As an adult, Lovisa left Uppsala to start to work as a maid in Stockholm. In her spare time, she often helped friends with their health problems. Word spread of her medical knowledge, and more and more people came to ask her for medical treatment. Soon, even rich people became her regular clients and paid her for her efforts, which finally made it possible for her to quit her work as a maid and open her own clinic and start to work solely as a doctor in the city of Stockholm.

Quackery charge[edit]

In contrast to Kisamor, who had a long accepted tradition to build upon when she worked as a doctor out in the countryside, Lovisa was met with great opposition from male doctors when she started to became known as a selfsupporting female doctor in the city. In the 1820s, it was also forbidden for a woman to work as a doctor, and she was investigated by the medical authorities for quackery. During the examination, however, they found that she was a very good doctor, and had all the knowledge that the male doctors had. She was therefore acquitted from quackery and given permission to practice medicine in Stockholm even though it was forbidden for women. She was also rewarded with a medal by King Oscar I of Sweden (1852) for her work.

Charity work[edit]

Årberg was admired by Fredrika Bremer, who mentions her in her famous novel Hertha in 1856:

Åberg was called "The wound healer doctoress" and "Maid Åberg". She is portrayed in a book about famous Swedish women published in 1864–1866. Her clinic is here called a "poor man's clinic" because she so often treated poor people. This contemporary book reports, that Årberg's own health had become so damaged by hard work that she on several occasions had to take leave and rest in the resort of Carlsbad. The article ends the report:

In 1871, Lovisa Årberg became blind and retired. The year before, the medical profession opened to women in Sweden.

She was not the only reputed woman practicing medicine in Sweden at the time; Hanna Svensdotter, (1798–1864), her contemporary, was widely reputed as "The Doctoress in Wram", and her reputation, especially regarding leg injuries, "reached far outside of Scania".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ svar.ra.se, Uppsala födda
  2. ^ ssa.stockholm.se, dödsbevis


  • Wilhelmina Stålberg: Anteqningar om Svenska kvinnor (Notes on Swedish women) (Swedish)