Minna Canth

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"Canth" redirects here. For other uses, see Acanthus.
Minna Canth
Portrait of Minna Canth by Kaarlo Vuori
Born 19 March 1844
Tampere, Finland
Died 12 May 1897(1897-05-12) (aged 53)
Kuopio, Finland
Occupation writer
Spouse(s) Johan Ferdinand Canth (1835–1879)
Parent(s) Gustaf Vilhelm Johnsson
Lovisa Ulrika Archelin

Minna Canth (IPA [minna ka:nt], born Ulrika Wilhelmina Johnsson, 19 March 1844 – 12 May 1897) was a Finnish writer and social activist. Canth began to write while managing her family draper's shop and living as a widow raising seven children. Her work addresses issues of women's rights, particularly in the context of a prevailing culture she considered antithetical to permitting expression and realization of women's aspirations. Her play The Pastor's Family is her best known. In her time, she became a controversial figure, due to the asynchrony between her ideas and those of her time, and in part due to her strong advocacy for her point of view.

Minna Canth is the first woman to receive her own flag day in Finland, starting on 19 March 2007. It is also the day of social equality in Finland.

Most important works.[edit]

Minna and Johan Ferdinand Canth in Jyväskylä, where Minna lived until the death of her husband.

Minna Canth's most important works are the plays Työmiehen vaimo (The Worker's Wife) from 1885 and Anna Liisa, penned in 1895.

In Työmiehen vaimo, the main character Johanna is married to Risto, an alcoholic who wastes all his wife's money. Johanna cannot prevent him – her money is legally his, not hers. The play's premiere caused scandal, but a few months later, parliament enacted a new law about separation of property.

Anna Liisa is a tragedy about a fifteen-year-old girl who gets pregnant without being married – she manages to hide her pregnancy, and when the child is born, she suffocates it in a fit of panic. Her boyfriend Mikko's mother helps her – she buries the baby in the woods, but a few years later, when Anna Liisa wants to marry her fiancé Johannes, she is blackmailed by Mikko and his mother. They threaten her to reveal her dark secret if she does not agree to marry Mikko, but Anna Liisa refuses. In the end, she decides to confess what she has done. She is taken to prison, but is much relieved after owning up and seems to have found peace.


Canth, Minna: The Burglary and The House of Roinila. Translated into English by Richard Impola. Aspasia Books, Beaverton 2010.

Further reading[edit]

Sirkka Sinkkonen, editor (1986) Toward equality: proceedings of the American and Finnish Workshop on Minna Canth, Kuopio, 19 to 20 June 1985. University of Kuopio. ISBN 951-780-823-2.

External links[edit]