Amalia von Strussenfelt was an author. She was active in the mid-1800s. She wrote a novel about women’s legal majority that attracted a good deal of attention.
Amalia von Strussenfelt was born in Arrie in Skåne in 1803. Her parents were Major Michael von Strussenfelt, a chamberlain, and his wife Fredrika Lindencrona. Eight days after Amalia von Strussenfelt’s birth, her mother died of puerperal fever and she was cared for by her paternal grandmother. An older brother, Adolf Ludvig, remained in Skåne, while their oldest sister Ulrika grew up with her maternal grandparents at Hovgården in Östergötland. Amalia von Strussenfelt moved there too when her father married again in 1814. All the siblings devoted themselves to cultural activities. Their brother became a painter when adult while Ulrika von Strussenfelt published a large number of novels for children and adults from 1833 until her death in 1873.
When very young, Amalia von Strussenfelt showed great interest in literature and was considered very gifted. Her main education was provided by her brother’s tutors in their home. Through her own studies of among other things French, German and English literature, she acquired a comprehensive literary education. She was particularly influenced by the French novel tradition and authors such as Madame de Genlis and Madame Cottin.
Her maternal grandparents’ deteriorating economy made the family sell Hovgården in 1831 and move to Gränna. The two sisters contributed to the family economy through pedagogical activities and their authorship, which were two of the few acceptable professional alternatives for unmarried noblewomen. Amalia von Strussenfelt was active in the 1830s as a governess in Skåne. From 1845 onwards, she settled down in Motala where she worked as a private teacher in people’s homes until her death.
Her literary career began when Amalia von Strussenfelt sent a poem in 1827 to Journalen, which was accepted anonymously. Under the signature ”Fröken R***”, she also published verses during the coming years in Fredrik Boije’s Magasin för konst, nyheter och moder, of which most were included in the collection Dikter in 1832. The almost ten novels produced by Amalia von Strussenfelt in 1829–1843 were also published anonymously under a nom de plume. The first novel, Constance Soligny, eller Kärlek och försakelse, was a depiction of Stockholm that received some positive mentions. After that, she published a number of historical stories with romantic intrigues in rapid succession. She used Swedish settings by preference or else a Norse saga as in Alarik, eller Vikingarne in 1830, and Sigfrid Thuresson Ryning in 1831.
Like several other women authors in this genre, Amalia von Strussenfelt let women play an important role in the historical course of events and she depicted women as heroines in war. Notable were her poetic tributes to men and women whom she perceived as freedom fighters. Her poetic subject expressed solidarity with their struggle in a song of praise to Asimina Gouras, the wife of a general, who took to arms and died in the battle for Greek independence in 1827: “A Nordic child, bred at the core / In my young breast fresh storm winds roar / Disdain for slaves, for citizens respect / for freedom zeal and tyranny neglect.” Her heroic women seldom met a good fate, however, and a quiet domestic life was described as a safer route to happiness and harmony.
Interest for revolutionary moods reappeared in Amalia von Strussenfelt’s best known novel: Qvinnan utan förmyndare (The woman without a guardian) that was published as a serial in 1841 in Thomsons Kabinetsbibliothek and translated into Danish. It was a contribution to the contemporary discussion on women’s legal majority, and generated a response from Sophie Bolander in her script Qvinnan med förmyndare (The woman with a guardian) from 1842. Amalia von Strussenfelt’s novel describes a young woman who has been allowed to administer her fortune herself but who has shown herself too immature for that responsibility and died penniless within a few years. The main character’s engagement for revolution and the struggle for freedom were presented in the novel as a sign of being overwrought, which prevented her from settling down with an ordinary husband. The novel simultaneously showed how confined women were and their limited opportunities in the Swedish social structure of the 1840s. Gifted women’s shortage of intellectual stimulation was emphasised; how they were plagued by “a thirst for knowledge” that was compared to thirst for forbidden fruit. In the novel there was also a satirical description of an uneducated upper class in debt and the gossipy, narrow-minded environment of a small town. For an intelligent woman with high aims, there was no space.
Her literary production seems to have been read by many contemporaries and the novels were included in the lending libraries of the time, but were often criticised negatively by influential reviewers. They considered that Amalia von Strussenfelt’s style was old-fashioned and the characters superficial, even though the stories had their own value perhaps as lighter entertainment. Qvinnan utan förmyndare in particular became a subject of discussion. The equivocal story was criticised both for being reactionary through the description of the legally of age woman’s failure and also for not being sufficiently explicit in its gender-conservative point of view.
Amalia von Strussenfelt died in 1847 in Motala.