Harriet Clayhills was a journalist, an author, a women’s historian and active in the women’s movement.
Harriet Clayhills had already written her first books before beginning her studies at the university in Helsinki. She made her debut as a 16-year-old with Full i 17, and two years later published Vi abiturienter. Both books were perceived as novels about modern youth. They were much acclaimed and discussed, which led to her being offered the opportunity of writing for the Swedish magazine Idun. A long time later in life, Harriet Clayhills explained that the two novels were not autobiographical, although they had probably been understood that way by many readers. Her debut as an author was besides preceded the same year by her winning the first prize in a competition in Stockholms-Tidningen. Her play Hon kom, hon sågs, hon segrade! was chosen as the best play for youth that autumn. Harriet Clayhills gained her M.A. Degree at Helsinki University in the 1940s. She married in 1942 and also wrote for several Finnish-Swedish papers. She continued as a journalist when she moved to Oslo after having married a second time. There she had two children and was a correspondent at the Finnish radio, YLE, as well as writing for the Norwegian home decorating magazine Bonytt.
After her second divorce in the mid-1960s, Harriet Clayhills settled down with her youngest children in Stockholm where she worked for the magazine Allt i Hemmet. It was also in Stockholm that she became involved in the women’s movement. Among other things, she was responsible for the section “Women’s culture – women’s work and history” at the exhibition “Womenfolk”, in 1975. The group in which she was cooperating constructed two hills, one of bread and one of mittens, to show women’s invisible but vital work. The name Womenfolk lived on later in the bookshop and café at Södermalm in Stockholm with the same name. Harriet Clayhills also wrote for many of the important women’s journals of the day, for example Vi Mänskor, Kulturtidskriften Liv, Kvinnobulletinen and Kvinnotidningen Q. From the late 1970s until 1985 she was also the editor of Forum Närmiljö, the national association of Swedish interior decorators’ magazine.
Harriet Clayhills’ authorship on women’s history started in 1973 with the book Kata Dalström i agitationen, 1894–1923. It consisted of a selection of Kata Dalström’s texts with Harriet Clayhills’ commentary. For the 50th anniversary of Kata Dalström’s death the same year, Radio Theatre broadcast Harriet Clayhills’ and Carin Mannheimer’s play Framåt måste vi. In 1980, the book Kvinnfolksgöra: den märkliga historien om kvinnors arbete och liv i Norden under tiotusen år, a project on which she collaborated with Iréne Lundholm and Lotta Melanton.
For many years, Harriet Clayhills worked on the comprehensive and weighty Kvinnohistorisk uppslagsbok that came out in 1991. With this title, her great book productions came to an end. She has described the Lexicon as an overview of the women’s movement during the 1970s, and the new ways of thinking that developed at that time. Harriet Clayhills did not completely stop publishing texts, however. She wrote the article “En vecka i mitt liv: en gammal nomad i sin trädgård” (“A week in my life: an old nomad in her garden”) that was published in the magazine Astra Nova in 1998. This text was also included in Birgitta Boucht’s and Mariella Lindén’s book of recollections in 2009: Sökord: vänskap, död, rum, brev, böcker, Harriet Clayhills.
Harriet Clayhills died in Lillesand, Norway on 23 July 2014.