Eva Brag was the first Swedish female journalist to hold a permanent post.
Eva Brag was born in Lund in 1829. Her father, Johan Brag, was a professor of astronomy and physics. Having homeschooled his children he ensured that Eva Brag received an education equal to her brothers. The subjects she studied included French, English, and Latin and in addition she undertook study trips to France and Great Britain. Whilst her brothers were able to continue their studies at university – one of them eventually became a docent in Arabic languages whilst the other became a lecturer in history – women were not yet able to access higher education.
Instead Eva Brag began to work as a journalist and an author. From 1864 to 1865 she was employed by Göteborgs-Posten, and from 1865 to 1889 she worked for Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning. Her contact with the Gothenburg newspaper editors mainly occurred by correspondence. Eva Brag remained settled in Lund throughout her life, except for a time during the 1860s when she temporarily replaced the editor-in-chief at Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning. She was a political reporter but her remit also included writing literary reviews. She covered a broad range of topics and would write on literature, biographies and non-fiction. In addition to Swedish literature she also reviewed newly-published Norwegian and Danish books, which she also read in the original language in order to pass comment on the quality of the translations. Throughout her career she remained deeply engaged with the social and political issues of the day. She strongly opposed the enslavement of blacks in the USA and expressed a progressive point of view in the Swedish debate on the position of women in society. Further, she contributed to the radical women’s journals Några Blad and Framåt in addition to the larger newspapers whose editors were based in Gothenburg.
Sometimes Eva Brag’s socio-political engagement took the form of activism. She tried to persuade Lund University library to make its reading room available for women so that they too could access the scientific works in the collection, but it was to no avail.
Her novel, Sjelfiskhetens offer, published in 1868 after having appeared as a newspaper serial, highlights the legally vulnerable position of women and their subordinate position from various perspectives. Now the novel only exists in a single copy held at Gothenburg University library. The lead character in the novel is Alma Edelhjelm, a young woman who becomes an affluent heiress on the death of both of her parents. She is kidnapped and abducted by the deceitful chamberlain Lindenstråle, who seeks to solve his own financial troubles by forcing Alma to marry him and thereby satisfy his desire to lead a life of luxury. In addition to this Alma is betrayed by her “giftoman”, a person entrusted to approve her suitor after the death of her father. Without her consent, and in Alma’s name, the “giftoman” posts the banns between Alma and the chamberlain. Alma further realises that her reputation would be compromised if she in any way refuses to marry chamberlain Lindenstråle as few would believe that she had been abducted against her will. Once she has married the chamberlain he – entirely legally – gains control of Alma’s great wealth. In addition to using the novel to try to generate a discussion on the issues of how women’s property and wealth lay under their husband’s control once a women got married, and that women were not legally capable of making their own decisions regarding who they married, Eva Brag also raised issues such as the lack of women’s rights to higher education in Sjelfiskhetens offer. She was also not afraid to highlight the social problem of male violence towards women.
Eva Brag also wrote travelogues and poetry, in addition to her socially controversial literature. In 1857 the Kungl. Vetenskaps- och Vitterhets-Samhälle (Royal Society of Arts and Sciences) in Gothenburg awarded her with a literary prize for her lyrical poetry.
Whilst Eva Brag was pro-reform and liberal with regard to the majority of the issues of her day she was rather more conservative in her attitude toward simplifying measures to facilitate divorce. In her opinion divorce led to the man treating the woman “in a Mohammedan manner”. She believed that women were tarnished by divorce whereas men evaded any social stigma. Eva Brag remained unmarried throughout her life.
Eva Brag died in 1913 and is buried at the Östra cemetery in Lund.