Minna Canth was the pen name of Ulrika Vilhelmina Canth, née Johnsson, born to a working class family in Tampere, Finland. She received an exceptionally broad education for a girl of her era and class. In 1863, she enrolled at the recently-founded teacher training college at Jyväskylä, the first school in Finland to offer higher education for women. Two years later, she married Johan Ferdinand Canth, the college's natural sciences teacher, with whom she would have seven children. She contributed articles about issues of concern to women to the newspaper Keski-Suomi (Central Finland), where her husband was the editor. He moved in 1877 to a rival newspaper, Päijänne, which began to print her short stories. Her first collection, Novelleja ja kertomuksia (Novellas and Tales) was published in 1873. After her husband's death in 1897, she went to work to support her family but continued to write and support feminist causes. Her most important works are considered to be her two plays Työmiehen vaimo (The Worker's Wife, 1885) and Anna Liisa (1895).
The former led to the enactment in the Finnish Parliament of a new law allowing married women to control their own property.
Today she is recognized as a leader of 19th-century Finnish literature and the Realist movement.