The Granberg Sisters

In my previous blog I recounted of Per Adolf Granberg, the poet with the wooden hand. I have been somewhat unkind to him. Although he may be forgotten today, in his own time he was quite successful. His opera Jorund (1812) won a prestigious prize and his piece Freyas högtid (Freya’s Feast) was performed at the occasion of the crown prince’s wedding in 1823. In general, his handicap did not keep him from producing an impressive number of publications, both fiction and non-fiction, on subjects ranging from the history of the Kalmar Union to statistics, trade and economics; he even compiled an English-to-Swedish pocket dictionary.

Granberg had five daughters. Unusual for the time, he and his wife allowed their children to skill themselves in a profession of their choosing. Sophie was a certified confectioner and all five sisters were skilled shoemakers. Louise graduated as interior painter from the Technological Institute in Stockholm and traveled the country to tutor others in this profession; she was also a skillful furniture maker and woodworker. But most relevant with regard to the overall theme of this blog, Jeanette and Louise would follow in their father’s footsteps and become successful writers.

 

Jeanette

Jeanette’s personal experiences in the theater world reveal that in nineteenth-century Sweden it was still not commonly accepted for women to pursue a professional career. As it was generally considered unsuitable for women to write plays, she wrote under a male pseudonym – Georges Malméen – and her own name would never appear on theater bills. Nevertheless, it was an open secret that she was the true author of her plays, which were highly successful and well-received by critics.

Yet, despite her success, sexism loomed around every corner. In her comedy Tidningsskrifvaren (The Newspaper Writer) the role of the villain was reserved for a newspaper editor who was believed to be a caricature of the very much existing newspaper editor Franz Sjöberg. Sjöberg did not take kindly to this persiflage and sneered that it would be of no consequence for the female staff if the theater were to go bankrupt as “they could always return to their true profession” – by which he meant prostitution.

Jeanette would match her father’s productivity in literary output, producing dozens of translations, adaptations of original English, German, French, and Danish dramas, and her own original plays before the age of 33, when she died during childbirth.

 

Louise

Jeanette had been married to actor and theater director Edvard Stjernström. Seven years after Jeanette’s death Edvard remarried… to her sister Louise. Louise had collaborated intensely with her younger sister when she was still alive, translating and writing many a drama in tandem. After her husband’s death she took over the directorship of the theater. When financial hardship forced her to sell the theater three years later, she switched from writing drama to the historical novel, in which she in typical Granberg-fashion became highly productive. My database lists 17 of her works. Like her sister before her writing under a male pseudonym – Carl Blink or Erik Ejegod (a medieval Danish king) – she was the most successful female author of the late nineteenth century in terms of sales figures. Her intended target were first and foremost young conscripts, whom she wanted to thank for their dedication by offering them enticing stories from Swedish history.

Louise died at the age of 95 and was buried together with her sister and her husband in Stockholm.

The image at the top of this article shows a scene from Jeanette’s drama Queen Christina from 1855. Christina is played by Ulrika Kindahl; Ulrik Trosslow plays the statesman Axel Oxenstierna.

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