chapter  2
12 Pages

‘Why Are We Standing Still?’ Reflections from History

WithInga Elgqvist-Saltzman

In 1859, when women in Sweden opened the first issue of a Swedish feminist journal, they were met with a plea for women’s access to education and intellectual training. The journal was Tidskrift for Hemmet (Home Journal), claiming the heritage of the feminist author Fredrika Bremer, who actively campaigned for the rights of women in the early and mid 1800s. The journal aimed to convey the debate in some parts of Europe and in the United States to women in Sweden, a country which at that time was backward with regard to family law and economic legislation for women. The Home Journal identified public responsibility for the education of girls and women as one of the most important contemporary controversies. The first issue opened with an article on ‘The need for woman’s intellectual education’. How was the purpose and the aim of women’s education defined almost one and a half centuries ago? A further look at the Home Journal’s articles on education during the decades around 1860 will be the point of departure for this paper. How were women’s lives affected when educational opportunities opened up? The second part of the article explores the life stories of some women of later times, when Sweden became renowned for being the first country in the world where gender equality policies tried to change the roles of men as well as those of women. In the concluding section I link the early debate on gender and education in the Home Journal with issues and strategies today.