Tag: history of women

Marjo T. Nieminen: Tiedon tyttäret [The daughters of knowledge]

20 March 2009 | Mini reviews

Tiedon tyttäretTiedon tyttäret. Oppineita eurooppalaisia naisia antiikista valistukseen
[The daughters of knowledge. Female European scholars from antiquity to the Enlightenment]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2008. 445 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-0-31824-9
€ 52, hardback

This richly illustrated work, the winner of the 2008 Finlandia Prize for Non-Fiction, tells the story of female scholars representing 25 different fields of study. The book also contains shorter introductions on more than a hundred women who have influenced the development of science. Hypatia of Alexandria, the prominent mathematician and astronomer murdered in 415 A.D. because she was considered politically dangerous, is one of the most famous of them, while others have been forgotten: in the 1660s – at the age of only thirteen – the pioneering entomologist, naturalist and explorer Maria Sibylla Merian made findings which would have called into question the current teachings of natural history, had they entered into wider public knowledge. Marjo T. Nurminen (born 1967). is an archaeologist specialised in the philosophy of science, and she works as the science editor for the Finnish Broadcasting Company.

Mothers and sons

Issue 1/2008 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

Extracts from Helvi Hämäläinen’s novel Raakileet (‘Unripe’, 1950. WSOY, 2007)

In front of the house grew a large old elm and a maple. The crown of the elm had been destroyed in the bombing and there was a large split in the trunk, revealing the grey, rotting wood. But every spring strong, verdant foliage sprouted from the thick trunk and branches; the tree lived its own powerful life. Its roots penetrated under the cement of the grey pavement and found rich soil; they wound their way under the pavement like strong, dark brown forearms. Cars rumbled over them, people walked, children played. On the cement of the pavement the brightly coloured litter of sweet papers, cigarette stubs and apple cores played; in the gutter or even in the street a pale rubber prophylactic might flourish, thrown from some window or dropped by some careless passer-by.

The sky arched blue over the six-and seven-storey buildings; in the evenings a glimmer could be seen at its edges, the reflection of the lights of the city. A group of large stone buildings, streets filled with vehicles, a small area filled with four hundred thousand people, an area in which they were born, died, owned something, earned their daily bread: the city – it lived, breathed….

Six springs had passed since the war…. Ilmari’s eyes gleamed yellow as a snake’s back, he took a dance step or two and bent over Kauko, pretending to stab him with a knife. More…

No country for young men

Issue 1/2008 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

When men go off to war, women must do their best to take their place at home. Lauri Sihvonen examines two fictional accounts – written in 1950 and 2007 – of women in the Second World War and its aftermath

When the Continuation War broke out in June 1941, Finland was in dire need of strength to fight the Soviet Union. Field Marshal and commanderin-chief of the armed forces Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim wrote to the Finns in an order of the day as follows:

‘I call upon you to embark with me upon a holy war against the enemy of our nation. The fallen heroes [of the Winter War, 1939–1940] will rise again from beneath the summer hillocks to stand beside us this day, as we set out on this crusade against our enemies, firm in our purpose to ensure the future of Finland, with the glorious military might of Germany at our side and as our brothers in arms.’

Sirpa Kähkönen (born in Kuopio in 1964) has taken this wild bit of zombie fiction as the basis for her new novel; Mannerheim gets exactly what he ordered.

Lakanasiivet (‘Linen wings’, Otava), the fourth independent instalment in Kähkönen’s novel series, tells of Kuopio on 1 July 1941. This was the only day on which this largest city in northern Savo, 400 kilometres northeast of Helsinki, was bombed during the Continuation War (1941–1944). More…

Hearth, home – and writing

Issue 4/2007 | Archives online, Extracts, Non-fiction

Extracts from Fredrika Runeberg’s Min pennas saga, (‘The story of my pen’, ca. 1869–1877). Introduction by Merete Mazzarella

The joy and happiness I experience at being able to see into [her husband] Runeberg’s soul, at living with him in his heart and his thoughts, belong far too firmly to the mysteries of my soul that I should wish to attempt to express them in words. But of the life that existed around us I should like to try and give an impression of sorts.

We moved to Borgå in 1837. I was unfamiliar with the town and knew only a little old lady, weak with age, and found myself very lonely indeed, accustomed as I was to living with relatives and a genial circle of friends. I did, however, still have my two eldest sons at home to keep me happy and occupied. More…

A womanly pursuit

Issue 4/2007 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Fredrika Runeberg

Fredrika Runeberg. Photo: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland

The wife of the national poet was not herself expected to write – quite the reverse, in fact. But, says Merete Mazzarella, Fredrika Runeberg (1804–1877) did

She was married to the national poet.

What is a national poet? Someone who is hugely admired in his own time, who helps to forge a national identity, who appears to bear the responsibility for the future of his people on his shoulders. Young nations like Finland – before 1809 a part of Sweden, from 1809 to 1917 an autonomous Grand Duchy under the Russian tsar – need national poets; old nations – like Sweden or Denmark – do not. A national poet is a father figure, thus almost inevitably a man.

Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877) was to become the national poet of Finland; a journalist, teacher and writer. The first poem from his collection of epic poems, Fänrik Ståls sägner (‘The tales of Ensign Stål’, 1848–60), became the national anthem. Since he was Swedish-speaking – as was the whole of the educated class at that time – we have an interesting paradox: his concept of the Finnish national character was actually created in Swedish. More…


Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Fiction, Prose

An extract from the novel Mirdja (1908). Introduction by Marja-Liisa Nevala

Now they were in the city – their minds more alive than usual with wilfulness and daring.

For – quite unable to jettison their shared life – they had at least to get on top it… Had to … Every single person has to battle …

And Mirdja’s head was full of efficacious rules for balance, countless cool and wise thoughts – to meet all conflicts.

Lucidly and coldly she had clarified her present position for herself. She was married. Right. No particular joy in that. But no need for any particular disaster in it either. And if she had thrown herself into dependence through this banal arrangement, the sort that everyone has a little of in this life, she had only herself to blame. She had to be able to live by rising above the trivialities of existence. Besides, she had always known that in the final count it was immaterial whom one was married to. A marriage always had its own profile, its dreary distinguishing marks, but one was not compelled to absorb these dreary sides into one’s own being. How did they do it in France? Every year thousands of marriages occur, without an atom of personal liking entering into the game, and extremely seldom are the marriages unhappy. Why so? Mutual politesse: a little of the art of social intercourse, and the whole problem is solved. In the morning a tiny friendly greeting at the breakfast table: ‘Bonjour ma chère,’ –  ‘Bonjour, mon ami’; a courteous kiss on the hand, a pretty smile in response, and everything’s as it should be. Because those people know how to go about it. Marriage – one of society’s many empty regimentations! Only stupid people tried, within narrow limits like these, to find fullness of content or idealize. Stupid, Mirdja had been. Comically destructive in that heavy northern solemnity of hers – refusing to acknowledge any form without content, yet fearful of endowing content with any form except the conventional and time-tested. She had lived with a common-or-garden person’s longing for fullness, and then allowed, exactly like that sort of person, her disappointment and bitterness to flood over all her nearest and dearest. She had lived in indiscretion. She had been paltry and rotten and considered herself a slave … More…

A life of one’s own

Issue 1/1984 | Archives online, Authors

L. Onerva. Photo: Otava, 1907

L. Onerva. Photo: Otava, 1907

When L. Onerva (1882–1972) published her novel Mirdja in 1908 she was twenty-six years old. Two previously published collections of poetry had already established a reputation for her as a promising young writer and she was also achieving a name as a first-rate critic. Her career thus began in circumstances which augured well for distinction and fame, both of which came to her, although her fame derives not only from her literary abilities – it is due in part to the notoriety of her private life. Her works, always thought to have a biographical element, are often read for glimpses of bohemian and artistic life at the start of the century.

In the puritanical climate of the period Onerva was unquestionably unusual, although Finland was not without independent and literary women. Onerva had many talents; she was well educated, and when she met Eino Leino, the most famous poet of the day, she had published her first collection of poems. This meeting changed the nature of Onerva’s life. She left her husband. Leino’s marriage also broke down and the couple ran away to Germany and Italy for a year. They were never married and both later married other people. Nevertheless, their profound friendship lasted until Leino’s death in 1926. More…