Fredrika Bremer

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Fredrika Bremer
A replica or study of Johan Gustaf Sandberg's portrait of Fredrika Bremer.jpg
Born 17 August 1801
Turku, Finland
Died 31 December 1865
Årsta outside of Stockholm, Sweden
Residence Sweden
Occupation Writer
Known for Writer, feminist

Fredrika Bremer (17 August 1801 – 31 December 1865) was a Swedish writer and a feminist activist. She had a large influence on the social development in Sweden, especially in feminist issues.[1]


Fredrika Bremer was born in Åbo (Turku) in Finland, then a Swedish province, as the daughter of Karl Fredrik Bremer (1770–1830) and Birgitta Charlotta Hollström (1777–1855). Her father, a descendant of an old German family, was a wealthy iron master and merchant: the son of the rich ship owners Jacob Bremer and Ulrika Fredrika Salonius. The family left Finland when Fredrika was three years old, and after a year's residence in Stockholm, purchased Årsta Castle, about 20 m. from Stockholm. Her father was described as somewhat of a house tyrant, and her mother was a socialite. She and her sisters were brought up to marry in to the aristocracy; a trip on the continent in 1821–22 was the finishing touch of her upbringing before her social debut.[2][3] Bremer was not comfortable with this role, and was inflicted by a crisis, which she overcame by charitable work in the country around Årsta Castle.

Literary career[edit]

Statue depicting Fredrika Bremer in Stockholm, unveiled 2 June 1927
Historical marker near Stillwater, Minnesota notes Bremer describing the St. Croix river valley in the state of Minnesota as "just the country for a new Scandinavia"

Fredrika Bremer debuted as a writer, anonymously, with a series of novels published between 1828 and 1831, which were soon followed by others.

Her novels were romantic stories of the time and concentrated on women in the marriage market; either beautiful and superficial, or unattractive with no hope of joining it, and the person telling the story and observing them is often an independent woman. She wanted a new kind of family life, one not focused only on the male members of the family, but one which would give a larger place for women to be in focus and develop their own talents and personality.

By the 1840s, she was an acknowledged part of the cultural life in Sweden and her writing was translated into many languages. From 1849 to 1851 Bremer traveled by herself in the United States. Many of her works had been translated into English by the noted poet and author Mary Howitt. In the novel Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Mrs. March reads from Fredrika Bremer to her four daughters. She was disappointed in what she had heard to be a 'promised land,' particularly in the institution of slavery. She also visited Switzerland, Italy, Palestine, and Greece between 1856 and 1861, and wrote popular accounts of her travels.

Her novel Hertha (1856) remains her most influential work. It is a dark novel about the lack of freedom for women, and it raised a debate in the parliament called "The Hertha debate", which contributed to the new law of legal majority for adult unmarried women in Sweden in 1858, and was somewhat of a starting point for the real feminist movement in Sweden. Hertha also raised the debate of higher formal education for women, and in 1861, the University for Women Teachers, Högre lärarinneseminariet, was founded by the state after the suggested woman university in Hertha. In 1859, Sophie Adlersparre, founded the paper Tidskrift för hemmet inspired by the novel. This was the starting point for Adlersparre's work as the organizer of the Swedish feminist movement.

Social interests[edit]

Fredrika Bremer was interested in contemporary political life and social reform regarding gender equality and social work, and she was active both as an influential participator in the debate of women's rights as well as a philanthropist. Politically, she was a liberal, who felt sympathy for social issues and for the working class movement.

In 1853, she co-founded the Stockholms fruntimmersförening för barnavård (Stockholm women's fund for child care) with Fredrika Limnell.[4]

In 1854, she co-founded the Women Society for the Improvement of Prisoners (Fruntimmersällskapet för fångars förbättring) together with Mathilda Foy, Maria Cederschiöld, Betty Ehrenborg and Emilia Elmblad. The purpose was to visit female prisoners to provide moral support and improve their character by studies of religion.[5]

In 1860, she helped Johanna Berglind to fund Tysta Skolan, a school for the deaf and mute in Stockholm. At the electoral reforms regarding the right to vote of 1862, she supported the idea to give women the right to vote, which was talked about as the "horrific sight" of seeing "crinolines at the election boxes", but Bremer gave the idea her support, and the same year, women of legal majority were granted suffrage in municipal elections in Sweden. The first real Women's rights movement in Sweden, the Fredrika Bremer Association (Fredrika Bremer Förbundet), founded by Sophie Adlersparre in 1884, was named after her. Bremer was happy to mention and to recommend the work of other female professionals. She mentioned both the doctor Lovisa Årberg and the engraver Sofia Ahlbom in her work.

Personal life[edit]

Fredrika Bremer never married. She became acquainted with Per Böklin, a principal at a school in Kristianstad in the 1830s, who gave her private lessons and became her friend. He asked her to marry him but, after several years consideration, she declined. She died at Årsta Castle outside of Stockholm, Sweden.

Selected works[edit]

Fredrika Bremer
  • Teckningar utu vardagslivet, first work with Familjen H), 1828–31.
  • Presidentens döttrar (The President's Daughters), 1834
  • Nya teckningar utur vardagslivet, 1834–1858
  • Familjen H, 1831 first translated as The H- family in 1843, translated and with an afterword by Sarah Death, 1995
  • Midsommarresan : en vallfart, 1848
  • Hemmet eller familje-sorger och fröjder, 1839 transl. as The home; or, family cares and family joys by Mary Howitt in 1850 (reprinted in 1978)
  • Grannarna, 1837, transl. by Mary Howitt as The neighbours: a story of every-day life; in two volumes, 1842
  • Hemmen i den nya världen, 1853, Tr. by Mary Howitt as The Homes of the New World: Impressions of America, vol. I-III. Published in Sweden and London, 1853. Also at Google Books.
  • Hertha, 1856.
  • Livet i gamla världen (Life in the Old World), 1860–1862.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bremer, Fredrika (1801–1865) (Project Runeberg)
  2. ^ Bremer, Fredrika (Anteckningar om svenska qvinnor)
  3. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bremer, Fredrika". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  4. ^ C Fredrika Limnell, urn:sbl:10390, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av Sven Erik Täckmark), hämtad 2015-03-15.
  5. ^ Fredrika Bremer bland lösdriverskorna (En berättelse om kretsen kring Fredrika Bremer)

Further reading[edit]

  • Burman, Carina Bremer: en biografi (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Forlag. 2001) ISBN 978-91-0-057680-6
  • Rooth, Signe Alice Seeress of the Northland: Fredrika Bremer's American Journey (American Swedish Historical Foundation, 1955)
  • Stendahl, Brita K. The Education of a Self-Made Woman, Fredrika Bremer, 1801–1865 (Edwin Mellen Press. 1994) ISBN 978-0-7734-9098-7
  • Wieselgren, Greta Fredrika Bremer och verkligheten: Romanen Herthas tillblivelse (Kvinnohistoriskt arkiv. Norstedt. 1978) ISBN 978-91-1-783041-0

External links[edit]