Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon

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Gertrud Zetterholm


Author, translator, columnist

Gertrud Zetterholm was an author, translator and columnist. She was awarded the journalism prize Stora journalistpriset in 1966 and often participated in talk programmes on the radio.

Gertrud Zetterholm was born in 1918, the family’s first child. She had two younger brothers. Her father was Emil Villius, a dentist, and her mother was Anna Villius. The family lived in Ronneby. Gertrud Zetterholm attended a girls’ school in Kalmar and matriculated in 1936. She had no desire to continue studying. Her parents thought she should become a nanny, and she travelled to Germany to work there in that capacity. In connection with Kristallnacht in 1938, she hastily returned to Sweden.

Back in Kalmar she worked as a volunteer at the local newspaper Barometern. She moved later to Stockholm to work at the major daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter. There she met Tore Zetterholm, however, and within six months she had resigned and in 1941 she married him. The couple’s first child was a daughter who died after only a few hours. In those days it was not done to show grief, but people were expected to suffer in silence and get on with their lives. One year later, almost to the day, their son Björn was born, followed by Finn in 1945, Åsa in 1950 and Dag four years later. Her marriage with Tore Zetterholm lasted until 1969.

Gertrud Zetterholm looked after the four children and their home while her husband was often out travelling. He was a journalist, and made his debut in 1940 as an author. Gertrud Zetterholm wrote too, but it was only Tore who was noticed by the media. It took until 1946 before her fictional debut took place. Her novel Obemärkt is about seventeen-year-old Marit who arrives as a pupil at a private maternity home for unwed mothers (literally “unnoticed”, i.e. single mothers unrecognized by society, hoping to give birth in secret). The book received fine reviews.

Parallel to her own writing, Gertrud Zetterholm translated a long list of children’s and young people’s books, sometimes together with her husband. Examples of translations are a reworking based on Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, H. C. Andersen’s Bara en speleman and Keld Belert’s Systrarna Harhjärta. She translated from several languages: English, German, Danish, and Norwegian. Gertrud Zetterholm wrote her own fairy tales that were read aloud now and then on the radio’s story time programme. In 1956 she also participated in the national radio programme on religion Vad ska man säga barn om Gud? led by Kerstin Anér. Both women conversed later in another radio programme on the mother-in-law problem, and Gertrud Zetterholm’s was a voice that was often heard on the radio at the end of the 1950s in discussions and talk programmes.

In 1957, her book for girls, Älsklingsdockan, was published. Gertrud Zetterholm was thought to write realistically but movingly about everyday life. She participated in Studio 5 with among others Lars Gyllensten, Vic Suneson and Anna Riwkin-Brick, recounting travel memories from Italy and presenting her thoughts on the psalm book.

Grief over losing a child struck her once again when her fifteen-year-old son Björn shot himself to death by accident, in their home, in 1959. A few years later, she began writing columns in the weekly women’s magazine Femina, an assignment she had from 1964 until 1979. The columns often lovingly and amusingly described everyday life with teenage children, and were unforgettable for many readers. They brought her Stora Journalistpriset in 1966. She shared it with Gunnar A Olin. That year she was also a speaker on the classic radio show Sommar and she participated later on in a quiz programme on TV with her author colleagues Kerstin Thorvall and Marianne Höök.

Gertrud Zetterholm’s columns were published in book form later, with titles like Tusen och en dag till in 1967, Barnbidrag, that offered support to all parents, in 1968, and Med människor the year after. During the next decade, other titles appeared, for example Tämja elefanter, Himlastegen, Enrisfolket and Kära lilla stad. In 1971, when the publishers Wahlström & Widstrand had a striking advertisement printed in which they presented ”seven famous books”, Gertrud Zetterholm’s Människan Svensson was included as the only novel by a woman. She was guest along with Rune Pär Olofson and Per Erik Wahlund in the Swedish Television programme Fråga Lund and in 1973 she participated in Kyrkans Dag at Skansen. Between 1982 and 1986, Gertrud Zetterholm was a columnist in the church magazine Kyrkans Tidning.

Gertrud Zetterholm lived in Växjö during the last years of her life. She died in 2020, at 102 years of age.

Ulla Åshede
(Translated by Margaret Myers)

Published 2020-12-22

You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Gertrud Zetterholm,, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Ulla Åshede), retrieved 2024-04-15.

Other Names

    Maiden name: Villius

Family Relationships

Civil Status: Divorced
  • Mother: Anna Sofie Villius, född Madelung
  • Father: Johan Emil Villius, tidigare Andersson
  • Brother: Lars Henrik Villius
more ...


  • Flickskola, Kalmar: Realexamen


  • Profession: Barnflicka
  • Non-profit work: Volontär, Barometern
  • Profession: Journalist, Dagens Nyheter
more ...


  • Birthplace: Ronneby
  • Ronneby
  • Kalmar
more ...



  • Olsson, Lotta, 'Till minne: Gertrud Villius Zetterholm', Dagens Nyheter, 2020-10-23

Further References

  • Carlsson, Åsa, 'Gertrud prisades för sina underfundiga kåserier', Blekinge Läns Tidning, 2018-03-29

  • Zetterholm, Gertrud, 'Lilla Karin som blev Katarina', Vår kyrka, 1981:37, s. 8-9