Annie Åkerhielm was an author and a journalist. She was an energetic campaigner against women’s suffrage and against democracy in general. She also had great admiration for Germany, for Nazism, and for Adolf Hitler.
Annie Åkerhielm was brought up in Malmö within a fairly unusual and isolated family. Her father was district court judge Nils Herman Quiding, one of Sweden’s most prominent socialist utopians, who was sixty one years old. Annie Åkerhielm has described in a memoire how she remembers her father as being an elderly man who became increasingly deaf over time. He would often sit alone on the top floor of their small house on Östergatan writing his life’s work, Slutliqvid med Sveriges lag. Her mother, Catharina Quiding, was 20 years his junior and described herself as liberally-minded and considered her household duties to be a burden. She mainly longed to be able to read and enjoy music.
Annie Åkerhielm had a particularly isolated childhood as she was not allowed to attend school. Both of her parents were critical of the girls’ schools of the era and instead had Annie Åkerhielm home-schooled by her almost 13-year older sister, and through private lessons with various tutors. It was, however, largely, through self-study that she obtained a very good general education which served her well during her lifetime of writing.
Annie Åkerhielm had already begun to write as a child, but it was not until she was 29 years old that she had her first novel, called Hvidehus, published in 1898. She published because she wanted to earn money. She had been deeply impacted by the Greek-Turkish war of 1897, believing that Greece had been unfairly treated, and so she desired to travel to Greece and see the country for herself and write about her experiences. Annie Åkerhielm gained first prize in the Idun novel competition for her debut novel. In 1900 she was awarded the Swedish Academy’s minor gold medal for Bröderna, a story written in verse. Now she could put her travel plans into action and in 1901 she and her sister travelled to Greece. This resulted in her book Ett främmande namn. In the coming years she managed to publish 50 books, ending with her final novel Katinka gör karriär, released in 1945.
According to the reviewers Annie Åkerhielm had a talent for portraying people and their surroundings. The reviewers also noted that she was one of the most productive and popular authors of her day. Yet she was also criticised for her tendency to always describe the past as the good in life, whilst everything new was evil. For example, in 1899 Svenska Dagbladet described her as ‘a female skald, whose specialism is being outdated’. The following year Stockholms Dagblad acclaimed her courage in expressing ‘old, old thoughts’ but she was slated for her admiration of everything to do with the nobility, especially the Scanian nobility. The conservative journal Hwar 8 Dag listed her as comparable to Selma Lagerlöf in 1919, and Carl David af Wirsén, the powerful critic and secretary of the Swedish Academy, only sang her praises.
In 1906 Annie Åkerhielm married the newspaper man Baron Dan Åkerhielm. This marriage provided entry to a lifelong career as a newspaper writer. That same year Dan Åkerhielm took up the post of editor-in-chief and chief executive at Gefle-Posten. Annie Åkerhielm also became a political colleague, literary commentator, and even editor of foreign affairs for that paper. The couple moved to Stockholm at the end of 1912 and they both began to work for Nya Dagligt Allehanda. Dan Åkerhielm remained in post until his death in 1931 while Annie Åkerhielm carried on until she retired in 1936. She also worked as a writer for Stockholms Dagblad. These were all politically conservative newspapers which expressed opposition to women’s suffrage.
Just a year after the Landsförening för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (national association for women’s suffrage) had been set up, in 1904, Annie Åkerhielm published Fru Fanny. The lead character was a suffragette who abandoned her duties as mother and wife. Her son died of neglect, her husband left her, and she spent the rest of her life alone and unhappy. The book was a success to the extent that within the space of three months three editions of it had been published. Annie Åkerhielm maintained her opposition towards the women’s movement in countless articles. Her main points were that women were immature, politically ignorant, had irresponsible natures, and were incapable of seeing what was best for the country. She presented a scare-mongering image of the aftermath of the introduction of women’s suffrage claiming it would double the number of socialist voters, lead to broken homes and the loss of all sense of morality and the eventual collapse of the population.
Annie Åkerhielm’s opposition was not just to women’s suffrage but to democratic society in itself. She believed that the introduction of parliamentary rule and democracy would enable the ignorant majority to gain power at the expense of the enlightened elite. However, Annie Åkerhielm often emphasised that women’s suffrage was actually a secondary concern. Her overwhelming core interests were nationalism and the defence of Sweden, and she expressed these both in political articles and in poetry. In 1904 she published the poem Till Skånes kvinna in which she encouraged contemporary mothers to teach their sons that their greatest goal should be to die for their people and their country.
When the leftist government of Karl Staaf came to power in 1911 and decided to cancel the construction of coastal defence vessels Annie Åkerhielm’s poem Herrens signade båt, which was published in Gefle-Posten on 17 February 1912, served as her contribution to the storm of protest that ensued. Two years later, on 6 February 1914, Annie Åkerhielm stood on the Logård steps in Stockholm and revelled in the sight of the farmers’ procession marching under waving banners. She often sat in parliament and listened to the defence debates of the day which she would subsequently make reference to and comment on. Her recurring themes included a fear of socialism and of Russia. She was contemptuous of the peace movement and its utopian belief in eternal peace and she barely disguised her joy at the nationalist movement which arose as a result of Sven Hedin’s much-vaunted ‘Varningsord’.
She consistently expressed her nationalism, her love for her homeland, and her view of war as a noble force. She made no secret of her love for Germany. In 1906 she and her husband spent their honeymoon in Germany and ten years later, at the height of the First World War, the Åkerhielms were invited to Berlin. The outcome of that trip was Annie Åkerhielm’s book Från Berlin till Brüssel, published in 1916. She, along with many others, was critical of the peace of Versailles and its harsh and humiliating treatment of Germany. She believed that the Versailles negotiators were guilty of unforgivable injustice. In contrast to most, she was completely convinced that Germany was the only warring nation that was completely devoid of blame for the outbreak of war.
Annie Åkerhielm was initially a bit suspicious of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933. She pondered the aims of National Socialism and then provided her own answer: it sought a Nordic race, national renewal, and an end to power of international capital. Although she believed this was good and proper, she was critical of the methodology. She would have preferred the implementation of words and argumentation rather than violence. However, after undertaking further visits to Germany in 1936 and 1940 she experienced an awakening which stayed with her for the rest of her life. Through a series of articles published in Nya Dagligt Allehanda she described the celebratory nature of life in Germany and the enthusiastic attitude of the German populace towards their new leader. She further developed this in her books Ödets man: Några tankar om Hitler och hans folk, from 1938, and Dagar i Berlin oktober 1940, from 1940. She was a member of the Samfund Manhem (Manhem society) and she was one of the founders of the Riksförening Sverige-Tyskland (Swedish-German association), and she also wrote articles in mutually supportive journals the likes of Sverige Fritt and Sverige-Tyskland.
Around 1940 Annie Åkerhielm joined the socialist party of Sweden as it transitioned from being a leftist, anti-fascist organisation into a clearly pro-German and pro-Nazi group. During the 1944 election campaign she stood as one of the party’s parliamentary candidates. The election was a fiasco and the party was dissolved soon afterwards. Its organ, Folkets Dagblad, carried on for a while longer, however, and following Hitler’s suicide on 30 April 1945, Annie Åkerhielm wrote an admiring obituary which it published. She believed that Hitler was the greatest being since Jesus Christ and that everyone needed to help keep his legacy alive – namely the ideals of National Socialism. She herself did her best to live up to this call. Although all the journals and organisations she had been part of were dissolved in 1945 she found replacements through the neo-Nazi Sveriges Nationella Frihetsrörelse (Swedish national freedom movement) and its magazine Kretsnytt, which printed items such as a cartoon of a crying Jew with the caption ‘the myth of the gas chambers = Prime fake news’. Annie Åkerhielm was one of this magazine’s main contributors from 1950 to 1955 when the magazine folded.
Annie Åkerhielm remained true to her beliefs throughout her life. Her last contribution to Kretsnytt explained that she had lost her belief in the future of humanity. Her only hope was that in the future objective research would reinstate Hitler to reveal what a great statesman he had been and that a new Hitler would appear and seize power in Europe.
Annie Åkerhielm died in Stockholm on 20 July 1956.