Elin Wägner, journalist, author, philosopher and social critic, was born in Lund in the south of Sweden on 16 May 1882. Her mother’s family came from Småland further to the north, more precisely from Tolg and Berg, about 30 kilometres north of the town of Växjö.

She began her career as a journalist at Helsingborgs-Posten(1903-04), before becoming a contributor to the journal Vårt land(19045-05) and moving to Stockholm to take up the post of Assistant Editor-in-Chief at the women’s weekly Idun (1907-17). She also contributed to the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter, sometimes signing herself ‘Devinez’. She helped found the radical weekly Tidevarvet (1923-36), served as Editor 1925-27, and contributed hundreds of articles throughout the paper’s lifespan.

In 1910 she married Dr John Landquist, a philosopher and writer. They were divorced in 1922.

Wägner was a well-known journalist in Stockholm and had published novels such as Norrtullsligan (The Norrtull Gang) and Pennskaftet (Penwoman), both about professional women in an urban setting, when she had her literary breakthrough with a novel set in Småland, Åsa-Hanna (1918). She went on to publish numerous novels as well as collections of short stories. Several of her works are set in Småland, and a number of them deal with key issues of the period such as suffrage for women, peace, and the environment. Her travelogue-cum-local-history Tusen år i Småland (1939; A Thousand Years in Småland) remains a useful travel guide. In the pamphlet Fred med jorden (1940; Peace with the Earth), Wägner and Elisabeth Tamm, a landowner and politician, outlined a model for a sustainable agricultural policy. The pamphlet Väckarklocka (1941; Alarm Clock) deals with key social issues that are still relevant today: gender equality, peace, and the environment.

Following the publication of Wägner’s much-acclaimed biography (1942-43) of Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940; Nobel Prize for Literature in 1909), she was elected a member of the Swedish Academy in 1944 (Chair No. 15). She worked for the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to the Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral (1945). Vinden vände bladen (1947; The Wind Turned the Leaves Over), a historical novel set in Småland, was Wägner’s last major work.

She was working on a biography of the author Fredrika Bremer (1801-65) when she died in 1949 at the home of her friend Flory Gate (1904-1997), an ecological farmer in Rösås, Berg. The funeral service was held in Berg but Wägner was buried at Norra kyrkogården (The North Cemetery) in Lund in the grave of her mother Anna and her brother Harald.

Elin Wägner in translationDanish

Penneskaftet. Tr. Carl Behrens. Copenhagen, 1911.

Svalerne flyver højt. Tr. E. Grünbaum. Copenhagen, 1930.

Hanna. Tr. Ellen Hartmann. Copenhagen, 1942. (Åsa-Hanna)

Ilden overlever Natten. Tr. Aagot Lading. Copenhagen, 1942. (Väckarklocka)

Selma Lagerlöf, vol. 1. Tr. Hanne Lange. Copenhagen, 1943.

Selma Lagerlöf, vol. 2. Tr. Hanne Lange. Copenhagen, 1945.

Norrtullsligaen. Tr. Anne Marie Bjerg. Copenhagen, 1979.


Camilla’s huwelijk. Tr. D. Logeman-van der Willigen. Utrecht, 1916. (Camillas äktenskap)


‘The River and the Discharge Ditch. Extract from Tusen år i Småland [A Thousand Years in Småland]’. Tr. Sarah Death. Swedish Book Review, Supplement: The Environment, 1997, pp. 45-48

‘Alarm Clock. Extract from Väckarklocka’. Tr. Sarah Death. Swedish Book Review, Supplement: The Environment, 1997, pp. 49-52.

‘From The Norrtull Gang’. Tr. Betty Cain and Ulla Sweedler. Swedish Book Review, 1999, No. 1, pp. 21-23.

‘From Stormy Corner’ [Kvarteret Oron]. Tr. Betty Cain and Ulla Sweedler. Swedish Book Review, 1999, No. 1, pp. 23-27.

Stockholm Stories. Tr. Betty Cain and Ulla Sweedler. XLibris Corporation, 2002. (Norrtullsligan and Kvarteret Oron)

Penwoman. Tr. Sarah Death. London, 2009. (Pennskaftet)


Kamillan avioliitto. Tr. E. Piirinen. Helsinki, 1919. (Camillas äktenskap)

Selma Lagerlöf. Tr. Juho Tervonen. Porvoo, 1944.

Pääskyset lentävät korkealla. Tr. Juho Tervonen. Helsinki, 1945. (Svalorna flyga högt)

Ristiportti. Tr. Juho Tervonen. Porvoo, 1945. (Vändkorset)


Les hirondelles volent haut. Tr. Marguerite Gay and Gerd de Mautort. Paris, 1950. (Svalorna flyga högt)

Vie de Selma Lagerlöf. Tr. T. Hammar and Mme Metzger. Paris, 1950. (Selma Lagerlöf)

Le tourniquet. Tr. Marguerite Gay and Gerd de Mautort. Paris, 1961. (Vändkorset)


Die Liga der Kontorfräulein: eine Erzählung aus Stockholm. Tr. Julia Koppel. Munich, 1910. (Norrtullsligan)

Schreibliesel. Tr. Julia Koppel. Berlin, 1914. (Pennskaftet). Republished as Kämpfende Frauen. Berlin, 1918.

Das Drehkreuz. Tr. Marinette Chenaud. Bern, 1948. (Vändkorset)

NorwegianDe fire paa hybelen. Elisabeths dagbok. Tr. Sofie Voss. Kristiania, 1912. (Norrtullsligan)

Vekkerklokke. Tr. Marit Berge. Oslo, 1946.

Åsa-Hanna. Tr. Aadel Brun Tschudi. Oslo, 1946.


Ditja věka. Poběst Elin Vegner. St. Petersburg, 1912. (Pennskaftet)

Vstavočka: roman iz žizni övedskich suffražistok. St. Petersburg, 1912. (Norrtullsligan)

About Elin Wägner and her work

Death, Sarah, ‘Sexual Politics and the Defeat of Sisterhood in Elin Wägner’s Släkten Jerneploogs framgång (The Rise of the House of Jerneploog)’. In Mothers-Saviours-Peacemakers: Swedish Women Writers in the Twentieth Century, ed. Karin Westman Berg and Gabriella Åhmansson, pp. 125-44. Uppsala: University of Uppsala, Department of Literature, 1983.

Death, Sarah, ‘The Sleeping Fury: Symbol and Metaphor in Elin Wägner’s Silverforsen’. Scandinavica1985, pp. 183-95.

Death, Sarah, ‘The Female Perspective in the Novels of Fredrika Bremer and Elin Wägner: A Comparative Study of Some Central Themes’. Unpublished PhD thesis. University of London, 1985.

Forsås-Scott, Helena, ‘Elin Wägner (1882-1949)’. In the author’s Swedish Women’s Writing 1850-1995, pp. 70-87. London and Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: The Athlone Press, 1997.

Forsås-Scott, Helena, ‘Elin Wägner’. In Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 259, Twentieth Century Swedish Writers before World War II, ed. Ann-Charlotte Gavel Adams, pp. 268-77. Detroit: Gale Group, 2002.

Forsås-Scott, Helena, ‘Verbal Power, Visual Power, and the Construction of Feminine Subjectivity: Elin Wägner’s Norrtullsligan as Prose Fiction and Film’. In The New Woman and the Aesthetic Opening: Unlocking Gender in Twentieth-Century Texts, ed. Ebba Witt-Brattström, pp. 83-100. Huddinge: Södertörns Högskola, 2004.

Forsås-Scott, Helena, Re-Writing the Script: Gender and Community in Elin Wägner. London: Norvik Press, 2009.

Leppänen, Katarina, Rethinking Civilisation in a European Feminist Context: History, Nature, Women in Elin Wägner’s Väckarklocka. Gothenburg: University of Göteborg, Dept. of History of Ideas and Theory of Science, 2005. Republished as Elin Wägner’s Alarm Clock: Ecofeminist Theory in the Interwar Era. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2008.

Translation and bibliographies: Helena Forsås-Scott