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Author photo. Statue of Moa Martinsson at Grytstorget, Norrköping, Sweden. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Thuresson (2006)

Statue of Moa Martinsson at Grytstorget, Norrköping, Sweden. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Thuresson (2006)

Moa Martinson (1890–1964)

Author of Women and Appletrees

Includes the names: Moa Martinson, Moa Martinsson, Moa Martinsson

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Moa Martinson, née Helga Maria Swarts (or Swartz), was born in Vårdnäs, Sweden, to Kristina Swartz, a domestic and factory worker, and an unknown father. The first half of her life was filled with misery and poverty, but she retained a warmth and humor that later infused her writing. She had to leave school at age 13 and took a job on a farm. She went on to train as a pastry chef and worked in restaurants and hotels.

In 1909, she met Karl Johansson, a stone worker, with whom she had five sons before marrying in 1922. Their life in the forest was poor and harsh. She began to develop social and political interests in 1921, when unemployment in Sweden was running high. She joined the Central Organization of the Workers of Sweden and soon became active in it. She read works by authors such as Dostoyevsky, Zola, and Gorky to educate herself. A talented public speaker, she was elected as a member of the Labour Party to the municipal council in Sorunda, near Stockholm.

In 1922, she published her first article for the syndicalist paper Arbetaren (The Worker) on its women's page. After advocating equal pay for women for equal work, she had to resign from the paper, but was now well-known in Syndicalist circles. She began writing for a new magazine called Vi kvinnor (We Women). Her husband committed suicide in 1928 and she struggled to support her family. She met and fell in love with Harry Martinson, also a writer, who later received the Nobel Prize in Literature. After they married in 1929, she began her literary career and took the name Moa Martinson.

She made her debut in 1933 with the novel Kvinnan och äppelträdet (Women and Appletrees). Her most successful works were the semi-autobiographical trilogy of "Mia" novels -- Mor gifter sig (1936), Kyrkbröllop (1938) and Kungens Rosor (1939). Themes in her books included motherhood, love, poverty, politics, religion, urbanization, the hard living conditions of working-class women, and friendship between women. She was among the first Swedish writers to feature the landless agricultural laborers known as statare. Moa Martinson's work reached a wide audience with her books, newspaper articles, and public speaking and debates, and she became a role model for many women in Nordic countries, particularly for working-class women.
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