Anna Ölander was an author and an editor. Her books, songs and hymns were read and sung mainly in evangelical contexts.
Anna Ölander was born in Linköping in 1861. She lived there until she was ten. The family – consisting of her parents Adolf Ölander and Elin Ölander, née Arosenius, and her siblings Adolf, Maria, and Sigrid, then moved to Svanshals where Anna Ölander lived in 1871–1892.
After her father’s death, Anna Ölander worked for six years as a governess in various parts of the country, but was compelled to stop on account of the increasing deafness that had afflicted her after an illness when she was twelve. She moved back to Linköping where she lived for the rest of her life, apart from 1902–1904 when she lived in Jönköping and worked as editor for the magazine Trosvittnet.
Christian faith and its context were a conviction and a practice that Anna Ölander had with her from her youth, since her father Adolf Ölander was a teacher with a PhD at the Linköping grammar school and later a clergyman and vicar in Svanshals. Her faith deepened and became a central theme in her authorship which can be described as “beautiful pearls of religious narrative art”. For many women, churches and congregations were those places where women could make their voices heard, at least as long as they spoke of tradition, the family, customs and morals.
When Anna Ölander’s first work was published, she was 35 years old, and was described then as a mature debutante who “had already found her style” in the poetry collection I skymningsstund from 1896. All in all, she published about 50 literary books, of which three were poetry collections, at least 106 hymn and song texts of her own and almost 200 translations from various languages. The poems and song texts were often published first in magazines like for example Svenska Posten, Förbundstidningen and Trosvittnet. She sometimes used the signature A –der. Some of her books were translated to Danish, Norwegian and Dutch. She also worked as a translator and editor for Dagens lösen, a book of devotion first published in 1731 on the initiative of Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. The first Swedish edition came out in 1884 and followed in the founder’s spirit the dreamy expression of closeness to Jesus and intimacy in relation to him.
Like the contemporary author Elisabeth Beskow, several of her books were published by J.A. Lindblads Bokförlag AB and also by Evangeliska Fosterlands-Stiftelsens förlag. Some of them are: Dolda krafter och andra berättelser med illustrationer av Jenny Nyström in 1903, På olika vägar: Berättelser in 1916, Ett knippe solstrålar och andra berättelser in 1919, Vintergrönt: Berättelse in 1920, Guldarmbandet och andra berättelser in 1922, Slottet och grindstugan samt andra berättelser in 1923, Julklappsverserna och andra barnberättelser in 1923, and the book of memoirs Monica: Några glimtar ur ett människoliv in 1939.
The theology in her songs and hymns was appreciated especially by the evangelical churches where Anna Ölander was represented by her own texts in for example Sions toner, Psalmer och sånger and Segertoner. The renown of the hymns even reached the Swedish communities in Chicago. In connection with the Swedish Baptist General Conference of America in 1918, a song book was published: Fridsröster: sångbok för väckelsemöten, bönemöten, ungdomsmöten, söndagsskolan och hemmet. It contained songs in Swedish of which one was an original by Anna Ölander: “Omkring ditt ord, o Jesus”, and some translated by her. Other contexts in which her song texts were published were in Svensk söndagsskolsångbok till bruk för skolor och vid barngudstjänster in 1908, with ”Bär den högt, vår svenska fana”; the temperance songs ”Ett enda steg som viker av” and ”Se ej till skummande vinet”; and also the song that was to become one of her most beloved: ”Det brister en sträng härnere”. Other contexts for publication were Solskenssånger in 1924, Svenska Missionsförbundets sångbok in 1920, Hjärtesånger in 1895, and Herde-rösten: en samling af kärnfriska och lifliga sånger: egnade för väckelse och uppbyggning in 1892.
Anna Ölander’s texts were also to be found in the Swedish hymn book. In the Swedish church’s hymn book from 1937, she is represented by a hymn in the section Trons prövning under frestelser. She translated this hymn in 1900 from Friedrich Rädner’s orginal text from 1848. In Anna Ölander’s version it is entitled “Vänta efter Herren”. When the Swedish church published a new hymn book in 1986, it was not included in Anna Ölander’s version but was translated anew by Per Harling with the title “Vila i sin väntan”. The hymn by Anna Ölander that was included in the 1986 hymn book was instead one that had won approbation in the Swedish communities in Chicago, written in 1900: “Omkring ditt ord, O Jesus”, (no. 65). It appears in the section Kyrkan och nådemedlen.
Anna Ölander’s authorship was characterised by spirituality and the Christian faith, with engagement for poor, sick and exposed people. Anna Ölander is described as a woman with “social pathos”, and she herself explained that it was an involvement grounded on meetings with many exposed people who sought help at the home of her growing up in a vicar’s family in Svanshals. Anna Ölander also expressed the meaning of the soul’s battle in the existential questions of life, in which doubt challenges the security in Faith. In descriptions of her life and interviews, the increasing isolation from the world around her caused by her deafness is mentioned, but also that she continued her writing.
Anna Ölander died in 1939. At her funeral in Uppståndelsens kapell in Linköping, the hymn from 1919 was sung that was perhaps her best known: “Det brister en sträng härnere”. She is buried in the Old Cemetery in Linköping.