Elisabeth Bröms was an energetic works owner in the province of Gästrikland at the beginning of the 1700s. At the end of the 1600s, she procured two larger works estates that constituted the basis of her enterprise as works director.
Elisabeth Bröms was born in the summer of 1667 in Stockholm, the second daughter of Sven Bröms, a medical doctor, and his wife Catharina Helleday. Three sons from his first marriage had died of the plague 10 years before Elisabeth was born. His wife, a merchant’s daughter from Stockholm with Scottish background, died of the plague shortly after Elisabeth’s birth. Sven Bröms had his medical practice in Stockholm and was also the personal physician at court. He had been employed by amongst others Queen Kristina, Karl X Gustav and Karl XI. The motherless daughters were given a sound upbringing and "tuition in the sciences" by their father, which was to benefit them in their later enterprises. When their father left his position at court in 1676 and wound up his doctor’s practice in Stockholm, Elisabeth Bröms moved with him and her older sister Catharina Bröms to Ockelbo in Gästrikland. Sven Bröms came from a priestly family in Ockelbo and had inherited domains there which he enlarged at that point to form the manor estate named Wij Manor. In 1670 he also started a works business in the region together with Robert Petre, the magistrate in Arboga. They started Brattfors iron works and Åbro blast furnace in Ockelbo parish, this being the start of the Bröms family’s works ownership.
When Elisabeth Bröms was about 16, she married the vicar of Katarina congregation in Stockholm, Erik Tilas. She had four daughters with him. He died early, in 1688 and Elisabeth Bröms was widowed for the first time at 21 years of age.
Her sister Catharina Bröms had with her first husband and thereafter with her second husband, successively taken over their parental home Wij Manor at the beginning of the 1680s, as well as the running of these estates including the works business. Upon their father’s death in 1693, Elisabeth Bröms was bought out by her sister.
Elisabeth Bröms moved at that time across the Baltic to the Swedish territory of Livland (nowadays Estonia). She was then married to Crispinus Jernfeldius who had a position as theology professor at the University in Dorpat and as the pastor at St Johannis Church in the same town. Elisabeth Bröms had one son, Crispin, in her second marriage, born in 1694 in Dorpat. Her husband died prematurely in 1695, according to information as a consequence of King Karl XI’s having become enraged during an audience, slamming him against the wall after a dispute about the new psalm book. Elisabeth Bröms was widowed for the second time, 28 years of age.
During her second period of widowhood, Elisabeth Bröms made an important purchase, taking over two works estates in her home district in Gästrikland. When her first husband’s brother Daniel Tilas, a deputy judge, died in 1697 leaving behind him several works estates, the opportunity opened up for the Bröms sisters to increase their works properties. By redemption, Elisabeth Bröms, as a widow and under her own name, took over her brother-in-law’s property Högbo works the following year, with the Edske blast furnace, as well as Mackmyra works with the Valbo blast furnace. Her sister Catharina Bröms and her husband Bishop Carl Carlsson helped her with capital and guarantees to take over the loan at the Swedish Riksbanken. The sisters personally attended the purchase at the bank, at which Elisabeth Bröms invoked birth right for her daughters after their paternal uncle.
Of the two works, that were now run by bailiffs, Mackmyra was the one that Elisabeth Bröms took care of herself. In 1692, Mackmyra works had one hammer and two ovens with the right to produce 600 ship pounds of bar iron. Four years after having taken over, in 1702, Catharina Bröms purchased the second works, Högbo with the Edske blast furnace from her. Elisabeth Bröms owned and ran Mackmyra hammer and Valbo blast furnace, to which she acquired the title deeds in 1703, until her death around 1730.
The Bröms sisters’ lives were closely intertwined for many years. Elisabeth Bröms married her third husband, Nils Dwan, dean at Västerås Cathedral, in 1701. Her sister had been living in Västerås for the past thirteen years, with her husband the bishop, four children of her own and many stepchildren. The sisters seem to have made an impression in the town since in a song they were nicknamed "dean Lisa" and "bishop Karin", and according to the same song, they wielded strong influence over their husbands.
In 1709, Nils Dwan died and Elisabeth Bröms was again a widow, for the third time, at 42 years of age. Her sister had been widowed the year before and had moved from Västerås home to Wij Manor. At Mackmyra works at that time, there was no respectable manor house, so living there was no alternative for Elisabeth Bröms. She only remained for a short time in Västerås. In 1712, Dean’s wife Bröms was named as the owner of Albäck Manor in Simtuna parish in the province of Uppland. This became her base for at least the next nine years. In 1721, her son Major Crispin Jernfelt took over the estate. He still lived at Gäddeholm Manor in Irsta and only moved to Albäck in 1727. Elisabeth Bröms probably remained at Albäck during those years. She may even have lived with her daughter Maria Tilas at Granberg Manor in Litslena parish around 1726. At the latest in 1731 she had her home with her youngest daughter Catharina Tilas and her husband Lars Axel Stiernmarck, a district judge in Gästrikland, firstly at Backberg in Ovansjö and later at Ås in Österfärnebo. In 1732 she had to take care of her 14-year-old granddaughter Elisabeth Margareta Stiernmarck, who had been orphaned when both parents died soon after each other in the spring. They moved together from Österfärnebo to Ockelbo. The granddaughter married Per Hierta the year after at the age of 15, at Wij in Ockelbo. He was 25 years older than she and a cavalry captain, the brother of Hans Hierta, married to Catharina Bröms’ granddaughter Catharina Cederström, and also living at Wij Manor. In the mid-1730s, Hans Hierta and his wife took over Högbo works. Elisabeth Bröms was probably living at Wij in Ockelbo from that time on.
The Bröms sisters commenced a successful collaboration as works directors in Gästrikland where they ran their extensive works estates. Catharina Bröms was the one who perhaps took more initiative of the two, but together the sisters had a dominating position in the works business in Gästrikland at the beginning of the 1700s.
Elisabeth Bröms had inspectors who looked after her works, but was also involved in its running and economy. She bought several farms in Hedesunda and Valbo parishes, which made her into a major landowner. She also implemented transformations in her own works estates. Valbo blast furnace was demolished in 1708 and rebuilt the following year. In 1713–1733, the sisters reopened and ran the Högbo mine in Ovansjö. A third of all the ore went to Elisabeths Bröms’ blast furnace in Valbo and two-thirds to Catharina Bröms’ blast furnaces in Ockelbo.
In the 1730s, Elisabeth Bröms initiated extensive rebuilding at the Mackmyra hammer. She was also active in juridical processes against farmers in the district. The processes concerned issues that were important to the enterprise, like for example coal deliveries and water regulation. She also purchased homesteads when the owners were unable to pay off the loans they owed her. Her actions in business were not always popular but were however successful.
Elisabeth Bröms died in 1738, at 71 years of age, probably at Wij in Ockelbo.