Fredrika Bremer

Swedish Feminist Writer

Fredrika Bremer
Fredrika Bremer. Kean Collection/Getty Images

Frederika Bremer (August 17, 1801 - December 31, 1865) was a novelist, feminist, socialist, and mystic. She wrote in the literary genre called realism or liberalism.

Early Life and Writing

Fredrika Bremer was born in what was then Swedish Finland to a wealthy family which moved to Sweden when Fredrika was three years old. She was well educated and traveled widely, though her family limited her activities because she was a woman.

Fredrika Bremer was, under the laws of her time, unable to make her own decisions about the money that she inherited from her family. The only funds under her own control were what she earned from her writing. She published her first novels anonymously. Her writing earned her a gold medal from the Swedish Academy.

Religious Studies

In the 1830s Fredrika Bremer studied philosophy and theology under the tutelage of a young Christianstad minister, Boeklin. She developed into both a sort of Christian mystic and, on earthly matters, a Christian socialist. Their relationship was interrupted when Boeklin proposed marriage. Bremer removed herself from direct contact with him for fifteen years, communicating only through letters.

Travel to the United States

In 1849-51, Fredrika Bremer traveled to the United States to study culture and the position of women. She found herself trying to understand the issues around slavery and developed an anti-slavery position.

On this trip, Fredrika Bremer met and became acquainted with such American writers as Catharine Sedgwick, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Washington Irving, James Russell Lowell, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. She met with Native Americans, slaveowners, slaves, Quakers, Shakers, prostitutes.

She became the first woman to observe the US Congress in session, from the public gallery of the Capitol. After her return to Sweden, she published her impressions in the form of letters.

International and Democratic Reforms

In the 1850s, Bremer became involved in an international peace movement, and in pressing for civic democracy at home. Later, Fredrika Bremer traveled to Europe and the Middle East for five years, once again writing her impressions, this time publishing it as a diary in six volumes. Her travel books are important depictions of human culture at that particular point in history.

Reform of Women's Status Through Fiction

With Hertha, Fredrika Bremer quite consciously risked her popularity, with her depiction of a woman freed of traditional female role expectations. This novel is credited with helping influence parliament to make some legal reforms in women's status. Sweden's largest women's organization adopted the name Hertha in honor of Bremer's novel.

With Hertha, Fredrika Bremer quite consciously risked her popularity, with her depiction of a woman freed of traditional female role expectations. This novel is credited with helping influence parliament to make some legal reforms in women's status.

Sweden's largest women's organization adopted the name Hertha in honor of Bremer's novel.

Key Works of Fredrika Bremer:

  • 1829 - The H Family (Familjen H, published in English as The Colonel's Family in 1995)
  • 1824 - The President's Daughters
  • 1839 - The Home (Hemmet)
  • 1842 - The Neighbors (Grannarna)
  • 1853 - Homes in the New World (Hemen I den nya verlden)
  • 1856 - Hertha, or, The Story of a Soul
  • 1858 - Father and Daughter (Fader och dotter)