Skip to content
Photo: Luleå tekniska universitet
The three researchers at Luleå University of Technology Anna Nordenstam, a Professor in Swedish and Education, Josefin Rönnbäck, Senior Lecturer of History, and Caroline Graeske, Assistant Professor in Swedish and Education, contribute to the on-line Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women Photo: Luleå tekniska universitet View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Promotes prominent women in new lexicon

Published: 8 March 2018

Why are there so few women artists, philosophers, scientists, politicians, and authors? Or is this idea more based on inadequate documentation of women's actions? One important reason is that the writing of history is based on existing biographical dictionaries, where the principle of selection is gender-biased, and women are therefore underrepresented. Now, these, to our history so significant women, get a new chance through a special on-line Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women (SWO).

– I am pleased that a Swedish female biographical dictionary , from now on, will actually be available online, and that it is also in English. This means that important women's efforts are made visible and what is important is  that the texts are written by experts in the field. With the new biographies and the biographical data that accompanies each woman, it is possible to search for individual women but also on keywords. It will make the research move on in new tracks and to take new unexpected ways, says Anna Nordenstam, Professor in Swedish and Education at Luleå University of Technology.

She wishes that the Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women will be of importance to many groups in society:

–Hopefully, the Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women will be used in primary and secondary schools and universities, but also by curiously interested. This means that it is no longer possible to say that it is so difficult to find important women or even to say, that they do not exist in our history, says Anna Nordenstam.

Now, more women take place in our history

The three researchers: Anna Nordenstam, a Professor in Swedish and Education., Caroline Graeske, Assistant Professor in Swedish and Education and Josefin Rönnbäck, Senior Lecturer of History, all of them, at Luleå University of Technology, contribute to the on-line Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women.

– The Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women shows that women have indeed had a great influence in art, literature, medicine and philosophy. In literary history, for example, the men have often been seen as innovative geniuses, while the women rather appeared as separate anomalies. So to make up with these fallancys, we really need this dictionary! says Caroline Graeske.

Detective work to write about women

Josefin Rönnbäck explains that most writers who participate in the dictionary are historians and literary scientists. Some write about relatively well-known women, who were known both now and then, while others write about women who acted in the past but did got no recognition, for their achievements,  and were thus forgotten. It's about women acting as writers, artists, activists and politicians, innovators and pioneers, who have been historic and yet not received the attention they and their deed deserve.

– I see this as a starting point. There are so many women who have been important and significant who also deserve to be promoted. Looking up in almost any biographical encyclopedia, so the skewed gender distribution will be very clear. This is also noted in Wikipedia, and so sometimes printer workshops are arranged in order to change this, says Josefin Rönnbäck.

She has, thorough the years, studied various women's movements and organizations, and thus, as she describes it, she has discovered many incredible but unknown women.

– However, this is the first time I researched and wrote about one single woman. It was as exciting as difficult. I know earlier how difficult it is to research women. It requires more detective work to research and write about women than about men, says Josefin Rönnbäck.

Fought for women's research

Anna Nordenstam: has written seven articles to the Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women (SWO), and she briefly describes them here: "Sophie Adlersparre, the grand old lady of the bourgeois women's movement, who, in 1859, started the first women's magazine in the Nordic region - Tidskrift för hemmet - together with Rosalie Olivecrona, who later took the initiative to start the Fredrika Bremer Association. The two pioneering women in the academy: Hilma Borelius, the first woman who doctorated in Literay Science in Sweden and Karin Westman Berg, also a literary scholar  and she was a central person for women's research in Sweden, to really swing into motion in the 1960s and 1970s. During a period of the 1940s she lived and worked at the school in Luleå and then comitted herself in the Fredrika-Bremer federation in 1943. She was from 1943-1948 the Luleå Circuit Secretary and chairman 1948-1950.  However, she is most-known for launching the famous Gender role seminars in Uppsala in 1967-77, which was a central forum for women's research (as gender research was called before) outside the university. Gunnel Beckman whose Tillträde till festen is one of the finest books on an upcoming death that has ever been written, and Tre veckor över tiden, that has also been recognized in international research and also Gun Jacobson whose youth novels were more read earlier than today. I have also written about the well-liked authors Martha Sandwall Bergström with her Kulla Gulla books and Lisa Eurén-Berner with her books about Fröken Sprakfåle.

Public educator

Josefin Rönnbäck has written an article about Gerda Planting Gyllenbåga, a suffragette, liberal politician and public educator. She is unknown to most, despite her being active in the women's voting movement, Landsföreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt at local, regional, national and international level. She was also one of the very first women who was elected in the City Council and by a so-called women's list.

Women who describes Norrbotten

Caroline Graeske has written about Stina Aronson, a writer, who in several of her fictional texts highlighted and portrayed marginalized people, especially women. She was very much involved with Artur Lundqvist during the 1920s and they influenced each other. Stina Aronson has also portrayed Norrbotten and Tornedalen in several of her novels and short stories, and she works with the language in a innovative way by mixing dialectal expressions with Finnish, Meänkieli and Swedish. She was the daughter of Luleå's first bishop, Olof Bergqvist, a so-called bastard, something that determined also her life. Stina Aronson was a great inspiration of Sara Lidman.

Living Women's Biographical Lexicon

The Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women (SWO) to be linked to other internet archives and on-line works of reference dealing with Swedish women. This on-line Dictionary will itself instigate and contribute to further research and scholarly work. It will be available on the internet as a continually developing and freely accessible database. In this way, information about Swedish women’s contributions to society, from the Middle Ages to the present, will be easily available to both Swedish and international scholars.

The project is funded by the Swedish Foundation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. After the conclusion of the project, the database will be managed by SWE-CLARIN.