Modern Sportswomen

In Swedish

Emma Severinsson
Department of History, Lund University


In October 2018, Emma Severinsson was awarded a Ph.D. from Lund University for her Swedish language thesis Modern women. Modernity, femininity and swedishness in women’s magazines 1920–1933. One chapter is entitled “Moders Sportswomen’, and by kind permission of the author, idrottsforum.org publishes that chapter as an article (in Swedish as well). In order to frame the chapter properly in its academic context, we offer the full English abstract of the thesis:

‘Modern women’ were a global, transnational phenomenon that began to emerge around the world in the early 1920s. This dissertation investigates the reception of this phenomenon in Sweden between 1920 and 1933, specifically in a series of Women’s Magazines from the era: Charme, as well as Husmodern, Idun and Svensk Damtidning.

The young generation of women entering the third decade of the 1900s had a new set of circumstances than generations of women before them. They had gained the right to vote in 1921; changes in marital laws had given married women the same rights as their spouses; and the labour market was becoming increasingly open. The 1920s can be seen as an age in which marital unions began to grow more emancipated and femininity began to be somewhat less limited. How the shift in women’s legal and social rights affected people’s consciousness and self-image has yet to be examined closely in Swedish research. Although women had been granted new freedom on paper, the period is characterised by moralising about women’s space and identities, as this dissertation demonstrates. Among other things, discussions concerned the fact that women had become more involved in public life; that is, they had more access to the labour market, and a greater number of activities were considered acceptable for women, for example sports and entertainment.

This dissertation strives to examine how femininity was seen as modern and different in the 1920s with the aim of capturing how the customary narrative of Modernity has overlooked women’s participation in modern society. Another focus of this work is how modern women as a global and transnational phenomenon were dealt with in Sweden. It also explore the political dimensions, examining whether the ostensibly apolitical phenomenon of modern women was indeed charged with a political dimension.


Get the full-text article in Swedish!


EMMA SEVERINSSON recently gained a Ph.D. in history at Lund University with the dissertation Modern WomenShe is a teacher and researcher in fashion science. She is currently engaged in a project about fashion, democratisation and the emergence of the Swedish fashion press.


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