Ebon Andersson was a working-class girl from Masthugget who became a member of parliament of 30 years standing for Högern (today the Moderate Party).
Ebon Andersson was born on Sjömansgatan in Masthugget, Gothenburg, in November 1896. She was the fifth in a family of eight children. The family home consisted of one room and a kitchen. Her mother was a fishmonger, her father was a sailor and later a helmsman. During the summer months Ebon Andersson was sent to live with a dairy farmer in the countryside in order to learn about housekeeping. It was these visits that made Ebon Andersson aware of rural women’s living conditions, which greatly affected her. First they had to toil with household chores, then they had to help out in the fields, and finally, while the men were enjoying a midday nap, they had to return to their household chores again. Ebon Andersson considered this to be unfair.
Ebon Andersson left school at the age of twelve and began to work at the Wettergren hat factory. She changed her line of work to bookbinding after her confirmation. She harboured a desire to continue studying and attended evening classes after work to study mathematics. She was an active trade unionist and she became the chair of the women’s section of Sveriges Bokbinderi-Idkares Arbetsgivareförbund (a bookbinder’s trade union) at the age of 19. However, she disagreed with the trade union’s decision to merge with the Social Democratic Party and withdrew from the union: “It is a common misconception that a person cannot be a proper trade union member whilst also sympathising with right-wing political ideas. As far as I am concerned […] it is obvious that solidarity within the trade union […] comradeship and joint work to improve working conditions […] do not necessarily involve politics.”
Ebon Andersson entered fulltime education when she was 20 years old. Following many years of study at institutions for adult education and at college, she was awarded a Bachelor of Science in social work in Stockholm in 1924. She continued to study the social sciences and economics. When she was 35 years old she defended a dissertation entitled Fackföreningarnas taktiska metoder med särskild hänsyn till deras inverkan på arbetskraftens fördelning and became “ekonomie licentiat”, the academic level below a Doctor’s degree. She then trained as a librarian and became employed at the Socialvetenskapliga biblioteket in Stockholm. She began to give popular science lectures, through which she became known in women’s groups. She became sought-after as an expert on various socio-political matters, for example during the crisis years of 1932–1933 when unemployment was high and discussions around women’s work outside the home received renewed relevance. One proposal suggested banning women from night-time and underground work in order to safeguard men’s jobs in those spheres. Ebon Andersson believed that women should not be excluded, and argued that “[t]he big question is whether married women have a right to work”.
Prior to the 1935 town council election in Stockholm, a prominent female right-wing politician called up Ebon Andersson and asked her which political party she was a member of. Ebon Andersson answered: “None at all, but the last few years I have voted with my right [hand]”. This was how Ebon Andersson got into politics. She stood as the third option on the Stockholm right-wing candidates’ list for the 1936 parliamentary election. In January she took seat number 17 in the Stockholm benches of the second chamber in parliament.
Ebon Andersson was very much involved in socio-political issues and believed that all women should work in order to be able to provide for themselves. She worked hard to improve maternity benefits and to ensure that all teachers, irrespective of gender, should receive equal pay for equal work. This was enacted in 1938. That same year she put forward a motion that women should be able to stand for county governorships, along with several others. However, it was not until 1974 that the first woman was appointed county governor in Sweden. Throughout her time in the second chamber of parliament Ebon Andersson retained her job at Socialvetenskapliga biblioteket.
In 1938 Ebon Andersson became chair of Högerns Centrala Kvinnoråd (the central women’s council of the right-wing party) and its 30,000 members. She also became a member of the party executive. She led the association for 20 years. By the time she handed over the reins of the association, it had grown to 65,000 members. In 1946 Ebba Andersson was elected into the first chamber of parliament; she was the first female representative of the right-wing party to gain that position. During her political career Ebba Andersson pursued issues relating to welfare, social work, crime and the penal system, whilst also being heavily active within housing policy. During the 1950s she also proposed that women should be able to become members of the clergy.
Ebon Andersson began her final year in parliament in January 1966. As chairperson by seniority she opened the parliament session of 1966 and presided over the election of the speaker. This was the first time in the history of the parliament that a woman had opened a parliamentary session. Ebon Andersson turned 70 years old in November that same year and decided to resign from the chamber and parliament.
Ebon Andersson died in 1969, shortly before she would have turned 73, as a consequence of cardiac problems. She was buried at Norra begravningsplatsen (the Northern Cemetery) in Solna.