Moa Martinson

Moa Martinson (real name Helga Maria Swartz) was a self-taught novelist and journalist who depicted the plight of the landless agricultural workers in the Swedish countryside. Born out of wedlock and growing up in the slums of an industrial town, Moa was a champion  of  Swedish working-class women.


Moa Martinson (Left)

Though the first half of her life was filled with poverty and misery (she lost two sons in a drowning accident and her first husband committed suicide), Martinson’s memoirs are full of warmth and humour.  Her first novel (written at the age of 43) was Kvinnan och äppelträdet (“Women and Apple Trees”) published in 1933.
Her  most successful work is an autobiographical trilogy about a young girl’s relationship with her mother and her path to independence: Mor gifter sig  (“My Mother Gets Married”) 1936, Kyrkbröllop (“Church Wedding”) 1938, and Kungens rosor (“The King’s Roses”) 1938.


The nudity depicted on two of the postage stamps on the first day cover (above) was inspired by a scene from “Women and Apple Trees” in which the author described a farmer furtively watching two women bathe together in a laundry house. Knowing she was being spied upon, rather than cover herself up, Fredericka opens the door and stands naked in the doorway “… tall, white, and stately, she is a ghost-like glow in the dark January night.”

An interesting counterpoint to the female nude is the antimacassar draped over the typewriter – a fitting motif for a woman once regarded as The Mother of Sweden.  An antimacassar – not to mention a late-model Remington typewriter – is also visible in the following photograph of a study in Martinson’s former home in Johannesdal, Sweden (image taken from the blog Historiska Utblickar – Roberth and Rolf):


An earlier Remington typewriter (the same typewriter depicted on the first day cover) is on permanent display at the Café Grindsjön in Södertörn-Nynäshamn, Sweden – a cafe run by the author’s great granddaughter, Annika:


“It was a big farm with poor soil. Tough, that soil was, contrary as old women or as horses hard beaten. Soil that lay there, mossy and miry and matted, and only spited you. Soil that pliantly spread itself out for birch roots and useless wilderness, but set itself perversely against the ploughshare, against the spade and hoe, like a woman in bed who hates her man.”

(Moa Martinson, Women and Apple Trees, 1933)

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