Jaquette Liljencrantz was a writer who played a prominent role in Norway’s early women’s movement as well as in the Danish workers’ movement.
Jaquette Liljencrantz was born in 1845. She was the youngest of five children born into an aristocratic family. Her father, Count Gustaf Fredrik Liljencrantz, was a royal marshal in the service of King Oscar I and later a governor of Stockholm. Her mother, Johanna Josefina Eleonora Stjernstedt, died when Jaquette Liljencrantz was nine years old, leaving her and her pious brothers to be brought up by their father. On the death of her father her eldest brother became her legal guardian and informed her that he was going to send her to a Pietist boarding school. Jaquette Liljencrantz decided to run away. Although she was already 24 years old it would be another year before she attained what was then the legal age when unmarried women became financially independent of male guardians. She fled abroad to avoid being returned to the care of her eldest brother. She had some help from her sister, Lotten von Plomgren, and brother in law, which allowed her to make her way to Copenhagen. She spent most of the rest of her life in the Danish capital.
Jaquette Liljencrantz’s sternly religious upbringing and experiences of gender inequality during her youth played a major role in her future political activism. She turned against the church and its influence in society and on the individual and fought gendered hierarchies and preconceptions. Her later experiences of having children outside of wedlock and being abandoned by the father only further affirmed her stances. During the 1874–1876 period she wrote several pieces on these experiences. One of the best-known of these is a four-part work of complaint in which she named the man in question: Stud. Med. Anton Gjerdings forhold til J. L.. These writings tell how, in the summer of 1872, she met and fell in love with Anton Gjerding, a Norwegian student who was temporarily in Copenhagen. He promised to be faithful to her and to marry her. When she fell pregnant they decided that she should go to France where she would give birth, give up their child and then return to him. After she had gone through with their plan and paid a family to take on her child she returned only to find that Anton Gjerding had found himself a new lover. Her child died just four months later. Jaquette Liljencrantz published her moral and financial accusations against Anton Gjerding in what was apparently quite a large print run which not only sold out but was then reprinted.
The Swedish criticism levelled at Jaquette Liljencrantz’s publication claimed that she had shown contempt for Anton Gjerding’s social class, an intentionally crafted accusation. Jaquette Liljencrantz had become a convinced socialist in 1875 and was a fervent supporter of Louis Pio, one of the founders of the organised workers’ movement in Denmark. It was Louis Pio who had created a job for Jaquette Liljencrantz as a journalist for the Social-Demokraten newspaper which he himself had founded and of which he was the editor. Jaquette Liljencrantz wrote under the byline of Medea, producing several articles for the paper on the legal rights of unwed mothers and seeking the support of the workers’ movement’s leading male figures in this issue.
In the spring of 1876 Jaquette Liljencrantz was appointed chair of Den frie kvindelige Forening (DFKF). This was a women’s group with clear albeit not formal ties to the Social Democratic party. As part of her role as chair Jaquette Liljencrantz also attended the first party congress held that year and was elected into the party executive as its first and only female member. Her political and journalistic careers enjoyed further promotion when Louis Pio appointed Jaquette Liljencrantz as a permanent member of the editorial board for Social-Demokraten. The salary she received was significantly lower than that of her male colleagues. She was not only disappointed to be awarded what she considered to be a pittance but she was sorely aggrieved that despite the speeches male members of the Social Democratic party gave on the equal worth of the sexes she still saw no proof of it in her wage packet. Her belief in Louis Pio and her socialist convictions nevertheless led Jaquette Liljencrantz to invest not only her time but also her prestige and her money in the newspaper. Unfortunately Louis Pio turned out to be a deceiver who lived off her success, leaving Jaquette Liljencrantz in financial difficulty. Her situation worsened following an open dispute with the new editor of Social-Demokraten which resulted in her losing her job. At the same time her position within the Social Democratic party was also weakend. DKFK was dissolved on account of its close ties to Louis Pio and she was not re-elected onto the new executive.
During this period of time Jaquette Liljencrantz became radicalised. She became an active member of the revolutionary wing of the party and served as editor of their main organ Den Radikale. She was also involved in the break-up of the party in 1877. That same year several of her earlier articles which had been published in Social-Demokraten were released in a single publication entitled Den ugifte Kvindes juridiske Stillning and she travelled throughout Denmark agitating on behalf of her cause. During the ensuing years she frequently wrote and served as an editorial figure in a variety of circumstances, publishing her material in German and French, for example in the journal Jahrschrift für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, which published pieces by her on the history of and developments in the Nordic socialist movements. Her work entitled Nogle ord om befolkningsspørgsmaalet af en Kvinde served as her contribution to the contemporary debate on population numbers and she, in a Malthusian spirit, argued in favour of birth control as a means to defeat poverty.
In 1884 she was the first woman in Denmark to establish a newspaper, namely Den nya socialist. She had the help of the journalist Vilhelm Rasmussen and the two eventually got married and had a son named Artur. Their newspaper collapsed, however, the same year that it was founded. Den nya socialist had aggressively attacked the Social Democratic party candidate standing in the 1884 Danish parliamentary elections. Further, it was revealed that the newspaper had received financial contributions from the opposition right-wing candidate. The couple were subsequently frozen out of the workers’ movement and their paper folded. After this Jaquette Liljencrantz retired from the political sphere.
In Sweden Jaquette Liljencrantz’s struggle on behalf of the plight of unwed mothers gained renewed traction towards the late 1880s when her collected writings were translated and published in Framåt. Tidskrift utgifven af Göteborgs Kvinnoförening nearly ten years after they had been released in Denmark. This publication garnered a positive response in the Swedish Social-Demokraten newspaper which quoted lengthy passages and highlighted Jaquette Liljencrantz’s role in the neighbouring country’s socialist movement. However, apart from individual articles, such as those Aftonbladet published on the occasion of her 60th birthday describing Jaquette Liljencrantz as a Swedish-Danish pioneer of the women’s movement, little was said about her in Sweden.
Jaquette Liljencrantz died in October 1920.