Sophie Adlersparre

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Not to be confused with Sofia Adlersparre.
Sophie Adlersparre
Porträtt av friherrinnan Karin Sofie Adlersparre f. Leijonhufvud (Esselde) - Nordiska Museet - NMA.0041102.jpg
Born 6 July 1823
Helgerum in Västrum in Kalmar County, Sweden
Died 27 June 1895
Other names Sophie Leijonhufvud, Esselde
Occupation publisher, editor and writer
Known for Women's rights activists. .
Spouse(s) Axel Adlersparre
Founded Fredrika-Bremer-förbundet the first real Swedish women's movement organisation (1884).

Carin Sophie Adlersparre née Leijonhufvud (Helgerum in Västrum in Kalmar County, Sweden, 6 July 1823 – 27 June 1895), was a women's rights activist, publisher, editor, writer and friherinna (baroness). Alongside Fredrika Bremer and Rosalie Roos, she is referred to as one of the three most notable pioneers and founders of the 19th century women's rights movement in Sweden. As an activist, she was much known under her official pseudonym Esselde.


Sophie Adlersparre was the daughter of colonel lieutenant Baron Erik Gabriel Knutsson Leijonhufvud and Sofie Emerentia Hoppenstedt. She was educated privately at home, and then two years at a finishing school, the fashionable Bjurströmska flickpensionen (Bjurström's Pension for Girls) in Stockholm. In 1869, she married the noble Axel Adlersparre (1812–1879).

She was born within one of the Sweden's wealthiest families and her life was sheltered, but she was well informed about temporary ideas, and an admirer of Fredrika Bremer and her feminist ideas.

Adlersparre became interested to involve actively in feminist questions after her friend Rosalie Roos, a woman highly interested in social matters, had returned to Sweden in 1855 after years of travels abroad.

Media career[edit]

In 1859, Sophie Adlersparre begun her career as an activist for women's rights by founding the paper Tidskrift för hemmet (A Paper for the Home). The paper was established in companionship with Rosalie Roos by the financial support of Fredrika Limnell. Tidskrift för hemmet was a publication focused on culture and argued for extended women's rights, specifically the access to higher education and more professions. For Adlersparre, it was an important issue that a woman should be professional and thereby economically independent, and women s professional work was thereby a big issue in the publication. The paper enjoined immense popularity and influence and it became an important medium for the Swedish feminist movement. Sophie Adlesparre participated in the paper under the pseudonym "Esselde", and became its sole Editor-in-chief in 1868.

In 1886, Tidskrift för hemmet was terminated and replaced with the new women's magazine Dagny; Adlersparre continued as the Editor-in-chief of Dagny in 1886–1888 and remained in the paper's board until 1894.

Feminist work[edit]

Sophie Adlersparre never focused on Women suffrage. Instead, the access of higher education and more professions for women where her primary goals and the focus of her work. She organized evening classes (1862), founded employment agency's (1863) and established free libraries (1866) for women, to raise the level of women's education and their opportunity to find profession and become educated and self-supporting professionals. Her goal with the free libraries for women was further: "For a continuating self-education and for a bigger and wider outlook upon life".

The sister of her spouse, the painter Sofia Adlersparre (1808–1862), had some effect on her feminist principles. Her sister-in-law, though a successful artist, had not been able to study at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, were female students were only accepted as students with special permission. Sophie Adlersparre presented a petition to the Swedish parliament in 1862 that women should be accepted by law to study art at the academy on equal terms with men. This suggestion was debated in the parliament and accepted, which led to a reform in 1864.[1]

In 1884, Sophie Adlersparre founded the Fredrika-Bremer-förbundet (Frederika Bremer Society) or FBF, named after her feminist predecessor Fredrika Bremer, which is referred to as the first Swedish Women's Rights Organisation of note. The purpose of the organisation was to rise the intellectual, social and economic position of women. Thereby, it continued her previous work for women's rights, now in a more roganized manner. Two years after this, her paper Tidskrift för hemmet was replaced with Dagny, which was used as the media of the organisation. Formally, the male sympathiser Hans Hildebrand was made official chairman of the FBF in 1884–1903, because Adlersparre believed that the authorities would take the organisation and thereby its purpose more seriously if it was headed by a male. In reality, however, Hildebrand merely lent his name to the organisation and Sophie Adlersparre was the actual chairman until her death, after which she was replaced by Agda Montelius, who was called vice chairman until she in 1903 became chairman also formally. In 1885, Adlersparre was one of the members of a government comity, the Flickskolekomittén 1885 (The 1885 Girl's School Comitty) with the task investigate the education of females. This was first government comity in Sweden with female members, and she was one of two female members of it, the other one being the teacher Hilda Caselli of the Högre lärarinneseminariet.

Sophie Adlersparre was the leading women's rights activist during a period with many important reforms regarding gender equality in Sweden: unmarried adult women where automatically declared of legal majority and freed of male guardianship (1863); taxpaying women where granted municipal suffrage (1862); the post- and telegraph offices open to women and women are granted the same rights within trades and commerce (1864); married women are given control of their own income (1874); girls colleges are given government support and the universities are open to both sexes (1873).

The academical and professional efforts of Adlersparre was largely inspired by the ambitions of women from the middle class, who during this period saw a need for more professional opportunities on a social level they could accept. Her women's organisation Fredrika-Bremer-förbundet, eventually came to be regarded as a feminist organisation for women of the upper classes.

Sophie Adlersparre also participated in the establishment of the Swedish Red Cross with Rosalie Roos, General Major Rudebeck, and Dr. Lemchen (1865).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Österberg, Carin: Svenska kvinnor; Föregångare Nyskapare (Swedish women; Predecessors, pioneers) Signum, Lund (1990) (Swedish)
  • Österberg, Carin: Svenska kvinnor; Föregångare Nyskapare (Swedish women; Predecessors, pioneers) Signum, Lund (1990) (Swedish)
  • Lilla Focus Uppslagsbok (Little Focus Encyclopedia) Focus Uppslagsböcker AB (1979) (Swedish)
  • Sophie Adlersparre
  • Victoria Benedictsson, Ernst Ahlgren och Esselde : en brefväxling / utgifen af Sigrid Leijonhufvud. – Stockholm (1910)
  • Sigrid Leijonhufvud, Sophie Adlersparre 1–2 (1922–23)
  • U. Manns, Den sanna frigörelsen: Fredrika-Bremer-förbundet 1884–1921 (1997)
  • Anna Nordenstam, Begynnelser: Litteraturforskningens pionjärkvinnor 1850–1930 (2001)
  • Barbro Hedwall (2011). Susanna Eriksson Lundqvist. red.. Vår rättmätiga plats. Om kvinnornas kamp för rösträtt.. (Our Rightful Place. About women's struggle for suffrage) Förlag Bonnier. ISBN 978-91-7424-119-8 (Swedish)
  • K Sophie Adlersparre (f. Leijonhuvud), urn:sbl:5564, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (art av Sigrid Leijonhufvud.), hämtad 2015-06-16.