Anna Sofia Nilsdotter was a famous fine seamstress during the second half of the 1800s and the early 1900s.
Anna Sofia Nilsdotter was born on 1 December 1848 in Blackstad parish in Kalmar county, southern Sweden. She was the daughter of Nils Peter Nilsson, a crofter, and his wife Stina Carlsdotter. According to the house catechism records, Anna Sofia Nilsdotter was born “without arms and missing several toes on her feet.” In that poor home, there were six children altogether from their father’s two marriages. Their father died in 1851, after which Anna Sofia Nilsdotter moved with her mother to the poorhouse in the parish. In 1860, mother and child were documented in the house catechism records of Blackstad parish under the heading “defenceless”. Anna Sofia Nilsdotter was confirmed in Söderköping in 1864 with a good testimonial.
According to information in the daily newspaper Norrköpings Tidningar in 1864, Anna Sofia Nilsdotter’s skills were described as follows: “During the past year, the girl has acquired a not insignificant skillfulness in using her right foot to make tapestry products such as slippers, garters, cushions etc., by holding the needle between both her toes. At mealtimes, in exactly the same way, she uses in turn a knife, fork and spoon and when writing, the steel shaft of the pen is placed between the stump of her right arm and her right cheekbone.”
Anna Sofia Nilsdotter is said to have been taught these skills by the Blackstad curate’s daughter, Jenny Dahlström. Even as a 14-year-old, Anna Sofia Nilsdotter was rewarded by the Kalmar County northern housekeeping association and at the age of 18 she received an honorary diploma from the General Industrial Exposition of Stockholm in 1866.
In 1868, Anna Sofia Nilsdotter moved with her mother to Västervik, where she was able to buy a house in Siversgatan as early as in 1871. Her embroideries were widely spoken of and gave her a good income. She travelled a certain amount too, among other destinations, to the USA.
Anna Sofia Nilsdotter was religious and was gripped by the Methodist revival movement. Along with her mother, she reported her conversion to Methodism to the State Church and she and her mother were both driving forces behind the advent of the Methodist Church in Västervik in 1879. Anna Sofia Nilsdotter donated money and part of her grounds to the church. The church now owns a service book the cover of which is embroidered with 36,000 beads, made by Anna Sofia Nilsdotter. Her mother died in 1884 and Anna Sofia Nilsdotter moved to Linneryd, a rural parish in Kronoberg County in southern Sweden in 1897. There she settled down at Skogsryd Backegård and later Sofiehem belonging to Linneryd Östergård. In 1909 she moved to a flat in Villa Sofia belonging to Åkerby Mellangård in the rural parish of Ljuder. In Ljuder in 1914 she reported once again to the State Church that she had converted to Methodism.
Anna Sofia Nilsdotter died on 23 August 1922 of a kidney disease.