School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

Workshop panels

Izabela A. Dahl, Örebro University

Humanitarian aid to children of war. The organization of aid-related activities in the Örebro region 1922-1924

The Swedish term krigsbarn, meaning children of war is a term used for the first time to describe children from countries affected by war 1914-1918; children, who were provided aid in the neutral countries. Sweden was one of the countries who aided a group of about 26000 children during the years 1922-1924 and the coordination of this work was provided by the Swedish Red Cross.

This contribution will give an insight into the process of implementation of the aid-related activities at the local level and map the mobilization of local authorities in the Örebro region. Moreover, it will reflect on the character of this aid by embodying the voices of these children, their families, and the individuals who helped them.

The presentation is based on the collection called Red Cross Children of War stored at the Archival Center in Örebro.

Norbert Götz, Södertörn University

Women in Aid Appeals and Relief Work: The Case of the Great Irish Famine, 1846/47

The paper will provide a general discussion of the many reasons why gender matters in humanitarian crises, such as tensions of the concept of humanity with gendered practices and gendered patterns of vulnerability and resilience as well as of power and resources. This will then be exemplified by experiences during the Great Irish Famine with reference (1) to humanitarian appeals by women, addressing women, and describing female destinies, and (2) to relief work by women, for women, and against women.

James Lancaster, Örebro University

For women, by women. The Work of the Women’s Consultant at the Swedish Free Church Council 1979-1991

Many formal and informal barriers to leadership exist for women within the context of both civil society organizations and church organizations. Yet much of the practical, day-to-day work is carried out by women. While there may be barriers to entry higher positions, women influence on the level of praxis, where they can choose with some degree of freedom how to carry out their work and what tasks to prioritize. At the same time their work exists at an intersection of competing priorities and wills.

In 1973 the Swedish Free Church Council, an umbrella organization for free churches in Sweden, was appointed the task of distributing state aid to Swedish religious organizations, and in 1976 that task was expanded to distributing aid to minority and immigrant churches and religious organizations. This became the beginning of extensive, organized work with and for refugees in Sweden. As part of this work the Swedish Free Church Council hired Birgitta Blennberger as a women’s consultant within their refugee project in 1979 to organize activities and projects for refugee women and support women’s groups within immigrant communities in Sweden. The women’s consultant had to approach and balance the wills and needs of the women she assisted, to handle the (male) church hierarchy within the immigrant churches and the interests of the Free Church Council as well as the government agencies that financed her work.

In this presentation I will discuss how these differing priorities manifested in the practical work carried out by the women’s consultant with a focus especially on what activities were carried out and how difficulties or struggles were framed. The main questions will be how this type of refugee relief and integration work targeted at women was conceptualized as part of an overall integration effort. What role were refugee women expected to fill in order to help integrate the rest of their community and how were Swedish women expected to assist this process?

Pia Lundqvist, Gothenburg University

Experiences of an ambivalent position – female missionaries in the Congo Free State

The topic of my presentation is female Swedish missionaries who worked in Congo Free State from the late 1880s and the following decades. Already from the early years of the mission, the protestant Swedish Missionary Society (SMS) [Svenska Missionsförbundet, SMF] considered it urgent to engage women as well as men. In the early 1900s, the Western missionary professionals consisted of more female missionaries than male ones and the proportion of women increased continuously.

Women’s increasingly prominent position in the religious sphere was legitimized by the idea of separate and complementary roles of men and women. The ideology of the household was transferred from the domestic sphere to the public sphere.

My presentation will focus on the group of women. Who were they? What were their social and professional backgrounds? Why did they choose to become missionaries and what role did the notion of a divine calling play for their choice and agency?

It has been argued that missionary work provided an opportunity for women to stepoutside the prescribed gender patterns. They could even negotiate a greater freedom of action than formal rules allowed. At the same time, women were primarily engaged in activities that didn’t challenge the prevailing gender order: Teaching, orphanages and health care.

A closer study with a few female missionaries in focus, will demonstrate their practical work and their ambivalent position in the dual power hierarchies of the mission: As Europeans, they were considered superior to the indigenous population; but as women they were subordinate to the male missionaries. The source material and the life stories of the female missionaries will be discussed in relation to concepts like patriarchal structures, intertwined power hierarchies, vocation, mothering, negotiations and agency.

Victoria Martinez, Linköping University

Women Survivors of Nazi Concentration Camps as Agents and Providers of Second World War Humanitarian Work in Sweden

In narratives of Sweden’s humanitarian actions during and immediately following the Second World War, the recipients of these efforts have existed primarily as part of an anonymous, passive and grateful collective. In particular, women who came to Sweden after being evacuated from Nazi concentration camps have typically been portrayed as little more than objects of Swedish care. Aside from disregarding the agency these women had and exercised before, during and after they became recipients of Swedish humanitarian aid, it has also glossed over the fact that some of them were also actively providing humanitarian aid to other survivors, both in official and unofficial capacities, in Sweden. Though early post-war historical commissions and documentation centers have been studied in an international context, little scholarship exists which examines these women and their agentic role in Swedish humanitarianism following the Second World War or conceptualizes the work they conducted as humanitarian aid in a national or international context. This contribution will address these women and their work which challenges traditional narratives and conceptions of both women survivors of Nazi Holocaust and concentration camps and Second World War humanitarian aid in Sweden.

Maria Småberg, Lund University

Remembering Relief. The memory of Alma Johansson’s humanitarian work for Armenian women and children

The Swedish missionary Alma Johansson (1881-1974) witnessed the Armenian genocide in 1915. She then worked as a nurse and at an Armenian orphanage. When the children fell victim to the killings, she tried to save lives. It was also important for her to report on the abuses and form opinion through different channels. She then continued to work among Armenian refugees in Turkey and Greece until her retirement.

Alma Johansson's humanitarian efforts will be highlighted in a new exhibition in the Swedish Parliament, "The Room of Good Deeds". In Sweden, she is relatively unknown, but in Armenia, on the other hand, she is honored as a national mother. In this study I want to analyze the memory of Johansson in various national and transnational contexts. Here, political, cultural, moral and existential needs and agendas are found. Where, when and why has Johansson's memory been kept alive and by whom? What are the gendered dimensions of the memory cultures embracing Alma Johansson?

Lina Sturfelt, Lund university

Female activists, fostering parents and mere children. Gendered humanitarian practices and narratives of Swedish Save the Children, 1919–1925 ca.

The First World War deeply affected constructions of masculinities and femininities and led to a severe gender crisis in Europe. Gender conflicts was an integral part of the post-war reconstruction process and relief programs. Humanitarian aid agencies thus often played an important role in (re)constructing gender ideas.

In this paper, Swedish Save the Children, SSC (Rädda Barnen) serves as an illustrative example of what is called ‘feminization’ of humanitarianism, both when it comes to aid workers and victims. This secular, transnational NGO was founded in 1919 by five women organizing emergency relief to the starving children of the former Central Powers. Later, it expanded its work to Russia and the Baltic states. In contrast to f ex the Red Cross, all members of the SSC board in Stockholm and nearly all of the fieldworkers were women, many of whom were well-known feminists, peace activists, child workers, and writers. First, the paper will discuss the gendering of humanitarian practices of interwar SSC and how ideas of gender was played out in the daily relief work on the ground, both when it came to activists and recipients. Second, it will analyse the different contradictory ways in which gender explicitly and implicitly shaped the organization’s humanitarian narratives.

Malin Thor Tureby, Linköping University

The Jewish women in Sweden and the persecuted Jews of Europe. Humanitarian aid in the shadow of the Holocaust

The experiences and histories of Jewish women are in general not represented in previous Swedish research on the history of the Jewish minority, the Swedish Jewish response to the Nazi terror and the Holocaust or the history of the women’s movement in general. Previous research on the Swedish Jewish response and assistance for the Jewish refugees and survivors of Nazi persecution has mainly dealt with the Jewish community in Stockholm and its relief committee, where the women were absent from leadership positions.

The aim of this study is to make Jewish women visible as historical actors. This is done through an empirical study, using a previously ignored archived: The Jewish women’s club archive, with the aim of exploring how and in what ways Jewish women’s club in Stockholm engaged in the persecuted Jews of Europe during and after the Holocaust.

However, the women's humanitarian aid to the persecuted Jews of Europe is also being investigated in the context of how the Jewish women’s club manifested itself in the public.  The empirical aim of this study is thus twofold, first, the formation of Jewish women’s club in the public is investigated. Second, Jewish women’s’ involvement and contribution to humanitarian aid for Jewish refugees and survivors in Stockholm, Sweden and Europe are examined.