Ester Blenda Nordström

Name: Ester Blenda Nordström
Born: March 31 1891
Died: October 15 1948
Married to: René Malaise
Children: None
Occupation: Writer and journalist

Nordström was born in Stockholm and it was there her working career started. At first she was volunteering at the newspaper Stockholms Dagblad, and later she got a job at Svenska Dagbladet. There she wrote under the pen-name "Bansai" and worked there 1911-1917. It was while at SvD she did her first work as an undercover journalist (she was one of the first to do so in Sweden). She took work as a servant girl at a farm and published a series of articles with the title "En månad som tjänsteflicka på en bondgård i Södermanland" [translated the title would mean: A month as a servant girl on a farm in Södermanland] and it was later turned in to a book: "En piga bland pigor" (1914). The main focus of both articles and book was to report on the harsh living and working conditions for a group of people who had very little ability to protest or in any way improve their lives. The book was later turned into a film in 1924, directed by John W. Brunius (but the actual story only loosely follows the book).

While working at Svenska Dagbladet she also made her other big undercover project, travelling as a teacher in Lappland and meeting the Sami people - it ended with yet another book "Kåtornas folk" (1916) [The people of the kåta].

Having left SvD she also took up a career as a fiction writer, aiming at young girls and she published "En rackarunge" [A little rascal] in 1919. This book is famous for actually mainly dealing with a young heroine who does not just end up married but the girl's growing independence. But her main work still lay with the social journalism and in the beginning of the 1920's she travelled to the US as a third class passenger on a boat, worked as a waitress once arrived and then travelled across the country as a hitch-hiker. She wrote about her experiences in the book "Amerikanskt: som emigrant till Amerika" (1923) [American: as an immigrant in America].

In 1925 she married the entomologist René Malaise (1892-1978) and went with him to Kamchatka in the Soviet Union and she stayed there in a small village for five years. She wrote about it in the book "Byn i vulkanens skugga" (1930) [The village in the shadow of the volcano]. By the time she returned to Sweden her marriage was over - they divorced in 1929.

She died in Stockholm in 1948, 57 years old.

If you read Swedish, her book "En piga bland pigor" was republished by Bakhåll in 2012 - and is well worth a read. It is a fluent and fascinating study of times not so far from us as we could be tempted to believe.

1 comment:

Isodora Coobar said...

I've tried finding an English translation of her book about America, can't be had. Guess I'll have ti learn Swedish