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Biographical writing as women’s tradition in Finland of the late 19th century

by Maarit Leskelä-Kärki

Biographical writing has been one important genre where non-academic women writers have taken part in constructing the national history and the traditions of historical research in different European countries. The genre of biography has had an important impact both in building national history, and in constructing the history of women.

This paper deals with women’s biographical traditions in Finland of the late 19th century and early 20th century – at a time when Finnish literature started to flourish in connection with the construction of national identity (as Finland was part of the Russian regime until 1917). I will focus both on short collective biographies written about women (mostly by the women’s movement) and on biographies written about one individual life-course. In Finland, women started writing individual biographies from 1890’s onwards, and I will, in particular, present two early biographers Helena Westermarck and Helmi Krohn. Their work can be seen as pioneering one in the early Finnish tradition of biographical writing. With a few examples I will look for example, what kind of nationality and national history did these women biographers promote in their writings?

AsK, September 2012

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