Anna Pettersson was a female pioneer of the Swedish legal world.
Anna Pettersson was born in Uppsala in 1861. Her father was Fredrik Pettersson, a landscape architect for the Swedish Academy. Her mother Amalia died when Anna Pettersson was only three years old. Anna Pettersson already displayed a serious interest in law as a young child and chose to read a lot of legal literature of her own volition. She never actually studied law at university level but instead trained as a language teacher. Despite this Anna Pettersson never shook off her interest in working with legal matters. She did not think it was feasible to start over from school-certificate levels through to university and so she opted to take the practical route.
Anna Pettersson gave up her career as a teacher and took on a position as an assistant within the Uppsala magistrates’ court offices around 1890. After eleven years of working there she then spent three years working at Victor Wennerholm’s legal offices in Stockholm. Following this Anna Pettersson felt ready to put her dream of running her own legal office into practise. In the autumn of 1904 Kvinnliga Juridiska Byrån (the women’s legal bureau) opened on Triewaldsgränd in Stockholm. Thus Anna Pettersson became the first woman in Sweden to open her own legal practise, run by a woman and in the main focused on female clients. During the early 1900s women – particularly married women – tended to have significantly less legal rights than men and many women made their way to Anna Pettersson’s bureau seeking help in matters to do with family law, such as divorce. Anna Pettersson also provided pro bono services to women who were in financially straightened circumstances.
Anna Pettersson was supported in her provision of legal services through women like Elsa Eschelsson, a docent in law, Sofia Gumaelius, the founder of Nya Annonsbyrån (advertising agency), and Agda Montelius, who was active within the women’s movement and also served as chair of Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet (association; FBF) and in Föreningen för Välgörenhetens Ordnande (FVO; association for the regulation of charity). Elsa Eschelsson helped Anna Pettersson in particularly complex legal cases and advised her to keep her bureau open as long as she could: “Don’t close as long as you have a single client”. However, not everyone was equally encouraging. The fact that Anna Pettersson was not a qualified legal practitioner engendered a certain amount of criticism amongst other legal professionals. Many did not like the name of her bureau: it was considered to be unfairly attractive to female clients to the disadvantage of other legal practitioners. Nevertheless, Anna Pettersson’s bureau gained a sizable client-base and ran successfully. In the autumn of 1915 the Kvinnliga Juridiska Byrån was taken over by Eva Andén, the first woman in Sweden to become a member of Svenska advokatsamfundet (the Swedish Bar Assocation), and Anna Pettersson retired.
Anna Pettersson gave talks and wrote articles on contemporary legal matters involving women, as did several of her contemporary female legal practitioners. She, for example, wrote in Dagny about marriage law in other countries and the shortfalls as far as women’s legal rights in Swedish law were concerned. Anna Pettersson was also active within the women’s suffrage movement and was on the board of Föreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (FKPR) (national association for women’s suffrage).
Anna Pettersson died in Uppsala in 1929. She is buried at the Gamla cemetery in Uppsala.