Elly Jannes was an author, a journal editor, and a journalist. Within the latter sphere she was a pioneer of female roving social reporters.
Elly Jannes was born in 1907. Her roots lay in Brevens bruk, an old iron-foundry community on the outskirts of Närke, close to the northern Östergötland forests and the manor houses of Sörmland. Her father was an iron caster named Janne Petterson. Elly took her father’s first name as her surname. The distinctive aspects of the iron-foundry community left deep traces in Elly Jannes, a working-class girl, and in her twilight years she wrote articles on her childhood. She and her daughter, Elle-Kari Höjeberg, also made a couple of radio programmes on Brevens bruk when it was threatened with closure. Elle-Kari Höjeberg had been born during Elly Jannes’ marriage to the doctor Svante Höjeberg.
Elly Jannes gained her Master of Philosophy in 1934 from the mathematical-natural sciences faculty of Stockholms högskola (college). She had already read Ester Blenda Nordström’s work during her youth and while she was studying she began to write for cultural journals. Her anonymous short-story won a competition in Idun, and she subsequently worked for the journal from 1934–1935. She also wrote for the women’s magazine Tidevarvet.
Elly Jannes was deeply involved in the temperance movement. This had certainly grown out of the popular movement traditions in Brevens bruk. She wrote, for example, for the temperance journal Polstjärnan as well as for the Good Templar Order’s Reformatorn, where in 1937 she was taken on in order to manage the “interest of the sisters”. At this time she also undertook a translation from German of Hermann Hoster’s 1936 work Många äro kallade.
Elly Jannes’ main base as a prominent Swedish journalist was the journal Vi (the new name for Konsumentbladet from 1937) where she worked from 1936 onwards. The cooperative movement was strong in Brevens bruk and Elly Jannes’ father had been one of the founders of her hometown consumer association. Elly Jannes remained loyal to Vi until 1969, at which point she stopped working as an editor. She became known as one of the journal’s bona-fide celebrities, a fearless journalist who undertook a vast amount of reporting in a variety of countries and milieus.
Around 1947 Vi could be found in about 40% of Swedish households. The journal often featured well-known authors, such as Ivar Lo-Johansson and Nils Ferlin. Social reporting was undertaken on matters such as aging as well as travelogues from various countries. Elly Jannes was a notable contributor to the establishment of that type of reporting culture at the journal.
Elly Jannes also began her own writing career whilst working as a journalist for Vi. She made her debut in 1942 when Renarna visar vägen was published, including photographs by Anna Riwkin-Brick. This was the first time that Elly Jannes’ interest in Sàpmi and the mountainous lifestyle manifested itself. She published her one and only work of fiction, entitled Detta är mitt enda liv in 1944, which garnered a significant amount of attention; the novel was read aloud on the radio. Its theme was unusual: a handicapped young girl’s struggle against prejudice and the judgements of those around her. Of relevance to this was the fact that one of Elly Jannes’ childhood playmates had been a girl with a hunchback.
Elly Jannes – along with Harry Martinson, Ole Torvalds, and Lars Ahlin – was awarded Svenska Dagbladet’s literature prize in early 1945. In a causerie-style account in Dagens Nyheter, in January 1945, she presented a piece on how she disapproved of convention and people who hid behind masks. The next day a photograph of her appeared in the same newspaper standing next to Artur Lundkvist, Jan Fridegård and Moa Martinson when the four of them were interviewed by the Nykterhetsorden Verdandis Stockholmskrets (Stockholm branch of the Verdandi temperance order).
Right after the end of the war Elly Jannes headed out to the bombed parts of Europe and documented her impressions in Människor därute and Ögonblicksbilder från Europa 1945/6, the latter of which included her own photographs. She endured a lot of hardship during these adventurous trips and experienced harsh realities. She carried on and travelled to the far corners of the earth. Her 1949 documentary book entitled Österland portrayed travels through Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. The following year she returned to the Sàpmi culture in Vandrande by which again contained images by Anna Riwkin-Brick. Her books had all been published by the Kooperativa Förbundets publishers, which worked closely withVi.
From 1951 onwards Elly Jannes began publishing her books through the Rabén & Sjögren publishers. One of her best known books was Elle Kari, once again based on Sàpmi culture and using photographs by Riwkin-Brick. This book was translated into English, German, and Finnish in addition to the other Nordic languages and was published in several editions. This was a time when a sizeable number of children’s picture-books illustrated with photographs came onto the market, such as those by Astrid Bergman Sucksdorff and Karin Fryxell’s Sotlugg och Linlugg which were already well-established in the genre.
Elly Jannes’ travels in Morocco resulted in the 1953 book called Solnedgångens land, and the following year she published Öknen skall glädjas and Resa i arabvärlden och Israel. In 1955 she released a more personal book entitled Ett år med Kari in which she documented her young daughter’s life in both words and photographs.
Elly Jannes continued travelling once she had retired from Vi. She published På väg till Ujamaa. En skildring från Tanzania in 1972, for which she also produced an accompanying study guide. Travel formed a constant theme throughout her life, to the extent that she also organised overseas tours through the journal’s travel club and other societies. Further, she and her daughter jointly published a book called Människor i Tanzania, in 1974, and Möten i Moçambique in 1976.
Elly Jannes became increasingly engaged in the women’s movement, the environmental movement, and the peace movement. After retiring she continued to write for Vi and other journals, and her criticisms only increased as the years went by. As late as 1993 she wrote about her former travel companion, Anna Riwkin-Brick. A focused study of Elly Jannes’ journalism and her significance with regard to the role of the roving female social reporter still remains to be undertaken.
Elly Jannes died in Stockholm in 2006. Her obituary was penned by younger fellow journalists Kerstin Vinterhed and Christina Rosenqvist for Dagens Nyheter.