Emma Isakson was an influential woman within the Norrland press during the first half of the 1900s. She was chair of the board and responsible for publishing the Luleå daily Norrbottens-Kuriren.
Emma Isakson was born in 1880. She was the daughter of Nils Petter Isakson, the founder of Norrbottens-Kuriren. She was part of a large family which comprised 8 children. She attended Luleå elmentarläroverk för flickor (girls’ school) and when she was just 17 years old she began to work for Norrbottens-Kuriren. Her elder brothers Georg and Rudolf were already working there. Georg Isakson, following completion of his studies in Stockholm, had been entrusted by his father to run the printing press whilst his brother Rudolf Isakson, who was two years younger than him, worked as the paper’s treasurer.
The Isakson siblings quickly became familiar with the newspaper world within the large building at Stationsgatan in Luleå. The building not only housed the newspaper’s editors, general offices, type-setters, and the printers, but also served as the family home. Emma Isakson lived there all her life, along with her brother Rudolf, and her sister Alma once she had returned to Luleå. In 1908 Emma Isakson took over her brother’s role as treasurer and in 1924 she was elected onto the company board, becoming its chair in 1945. That year she also became responsible for publishing Norrbottens-Kuriren.
Emma Isakson began her involvement with women’s political movements at an early stage. The Luleå Föreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (FKPR) (association for women’s suffrage) had been established around the turn of the century, and from its inception Emma Isakson had served as its treasurer. This meant that she was one of the town’s ‘suffragettes’ about whom the local gentlemen, according to later articles and interviews, would make jokes “around the punch-bowl” after she and her fellow suffragettes had put their civic voting rights to use in electing a city councillor.
Emma Isakson was keen on amateur drama in her younger years. An article notes, amongst other things, that she retained one of her lines from a play called I mörkaste Småland – “Girls must learn to stand on their own two feet and to see with their own eyes” – as a motto for the rest of her life. Emma Isakson was professionally involved in the emerging press world and in her spare time she was active both within Luleå Landstormsrörelse (later Luleå ‘lotta’ (female voluntary) corps). For a time she was head ‘lotta’ and belonged to the national board of Riksförbundet Sveriges lottakårer (Swedish national ‘lotta’ corps association) as the Norrland representative. She was also a member of Luleå Fruntimmers Pensions- och Understödsförening (women’s pension and relief association) which had been set up in 1880.
There is no doubt that Emma Isakson was a powerful figure at Norrbottens-Kuriren. Despite this she is hardly mentioned in the newspaper’s official history. She first appears in Norrbottens-Kuriren itself on the occasion of her 40th birthday in 1920. The author noted how the readers were certainly living “in a women’s era” but that nevertheless few women are honoured with a ‘double jubilee’. Emma Isakson was not just celebrating her birthday but also 25 years on the job, a situation which the author implies will become more common in the years to come. Further, the article goes on to affirm that the company treasurer has performed her role “just like a man, with proven skill and never-ending energy”.
Emma Isakson lived and worked in a male-dominated world. Her position gave her status and in personal interviews several people have testified to her strength, power, and temperament, whilst others have also talked of her warmth. Emma Isakson always remained ‘the treasurer’ although she could have used the titles of ‘director’ and ‘publisher’ as well.
Emma Isakson died in 1952.