Gunvor Bergström was appointed a governmental deputy assistant in 1966. She was one of the first women to be appointed to a senior post as a civil servant within the Government Offices of Sweden.
Gunvor Bergström was born in Gothenburg in 1927. Her father was a secondary school teacher. She gained her school-leaving certificate in Södertälje in 1945. Two years later she was noted in the large daily newspapers for being awarded a Bachelor of Law with top marks having spent only two and a half years studying instead of the usual four and a half. According to some accounts she subsequently studied law in Paris and London. However, her entries in biographical dictionaries only note her attendance at the London School of Economics from 1952 to 1953. It is possible that Gunvor Bergström’s foreign studies were financed by the doctoral stipend she received in 1952 from the Faculty of Law and Political Science at Stockholm College. Obituary notices released on her death in 2008 mention that she had a male life companion as well as two sisters, who each had their own families.
Gunvor Bergström set out on a career within the judiciary during the 1950s. Aftonbladet printed a report in 1957 stating that the appeal court clerk Gunvor Bergström was chair of a case regarding a young woman accused of robbing a customer who had paid her for sex. Gunvor Bergström apparently then expressed her opinion that the young woman could very easily be reintegrated into society but that there was no functioning system to enable this. This may have been the moment when Gunvor Bergström’s lifelong activism on behalf of young women began.
In 1959 Gunvor Bergström became a co-opted member of the Svea court of appeal and in 1962 she became an associate appeal judge. She was employed as an expert by the department of justice, for instance during the development of a new criminal code. In 1966 she became deputy assistant in the same department. As such she was invited to tea with Princess Sibylla at Stockholm palace in 1967 with 98 other women, as a way of recognising these eminent and qualified women in Sweden.
Gunvor Bergström became known for her role as secretary of the 1965 abortion commission. The commission’s published report, Rätten till abort (“Right to abortion”), was handed over to Arne Geijer, then Minister of Justice, in 1971. Gunvor Bergström was also the governmental representative on Kriminalvårdsnämnden (Swedish prison and probation authority), which was responsible for taking sensitive decisions on releasing prisoners from captivity. She also co-authored an information leaflet on the role and organisation of the surveillance board. Further, she was responsible for an investigation into the possibility of tightening the laws and imposing financial penalties against companies who for example flouted environmental laws. This investigation led to the production of two pamphlets from the department of justice, one on corporate responsibility and the other containing proposals for the legal wording of corporate fines.
Gunvor Bergström was a woman who stood out in her time and she was keen to enter into social debates. In her role as secretary of the recently completed abortion review, she emphatically expressed her support for male contraception in Aftonbladet in 1972; the article headline was “Make boys ‘sterile’ already at school”.
Following the 1986 murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme, Gunvor Bergström joined a group of private detectives, which tried to tie the murder to illegal weapon deals in the wake of the Iran-Iraq war. She also provided legal information to journalist Hanna Olsson when she was writing her book Catrine och rättvisan, 1990. In this book Hanna Olsson presented her interpretation of the infamous death by dismemberment of Catrine da Costa and the ensuing legal wrangles.
Gunvor Bergström lived in Tystberg in Nyköping municipality. After she retired she continued to campaign for free abortions and in 1994 she wrote a polemical article on abortion in Aftonbladet against the Kristdemokrat (Christian Democrat) party leader Alf Svensson. When the trial concerning the murder of Catrine da Costa once again became news towards the end of the 1990s Gunvor Bergström wrote an article for Expressen criticising P O Engqvist’s lauding of the book Döden är en man. In that book the journalist Per Lindberg had dismissed Hanna Olsson’s and other female activists’ interpretations of the case.
Gunvor Bergström died in Nyköping in 2008.