Hedvig Carlander was a local coordinator in Gothenburg who during the First World War was responsible for supplying the Landstorm (the national guard) with clothes and equipment and during the Second World War was responsible for Kronprinesessans Gåvokommitté för Neutralitetsvakten ("The Crown Princess’s Gift Association For the Neutral Defence Forces”). She was also one of the founders of the Carlander hospital in Gothenburg.
Hedvig Carlander was born in 1874 and grew up in Stockholm. She was the fourth of seven children. Her parents were Hans Hildebrand, an archaeologist, numismatist and archivist at the state archives, and Elin Hildebrand. Hedvig Carlander was a sickly child and therefore received private tuition and did not attend school like her siblings. In 1899, when she was 23 years old, she married the businessman Axel Carlander and moved to Gothenburg. Hedvig Carlander’s early years in Gothenburg were not easy. She felt unsure in her new surroundings with many unfamiliar faces and initially superficial acquaintances. She quickly adjusted and began to take lessons in English and then German in order to fulfil her duties as a hostess.
Hedvig Carlander’s children – Bertil, Maja and Gerd – were her main focus. She grieved deeply after the loss of her daughter Barbro, who died only a few months old from an ear infection. Hedvig Carlander’s many obligations outside the home made the employment of a childminder necessary, but this did not prevent her from attentively caring for her children, reading for them, ensuring that they completed their homework and looking after them when they were ill. Caring for her parents, parents-in-law, siblings, and brothers- and sisters-in-law, along with her children’s many cousins, also played a large role in her life and that of her family.
Hedvig Carlander’s main duties outside the home involved running a reading group and a sewing circle for the female employees at Gamlestadens Fabriker, owned by the company Johansson & Carlander. Further engagements were soon added. She sat on the board of several associations related to child care, schooling and other issues, including Göteborgs barnavårdsstyrelse, Göteborgs Kvinnohus in Kållered, Styrsö Kustsanatorium, Rävlanda barnsanatorium, Fruntimmersföreningens flickskola and Sällskapet Livbojen i Göteborg. Her most demanding role was that of chair of the Gothenburg section 3 of the Swedish Red Cross, particularly during the World Wars. In 1917 the Fredrika Bremer Society set up a local group in Gothenburg and it fell to Hedvig Carlander to write the statutes and chair the group until Mary von Sydow took over.
Hedvig Carlander’s life was heavily impacted by the expansion of Axel Carlander’s responsibilities. The biggest change came in 1914 when they moved to a larger house at Lyckans Väg 4. In addition to his job at Gamlestadens Fabriker Axel Carlander was the chair of Svenska Kullagerfabriken (SKF) ltd., and chair of Gothenburg town council. Accordingly, Hedvig Carlander’s hostess duties increased as well.
At the outbreak of the First World War Hedvig Carlander was appointed local organiser in Gothenburg for Crown Princess Margareta’s Centralråd för landstormens beklädnad och utrustning (“Central Council for Supplying the National Guard’s Clothing and Equipment), also known as “Beklädnadsföreningen”. Women across Sweden knitted and sewed clothes for the national guard (later known as Hemvärnet). Further, parcels were sent to prisoners of war in Europe. In 1917 Hedvig Carlander held a bazar at the Bourse in Gothenburg in order to sell items made by prisoners of war. Crown Princess Margareta also attended the event. She was apparently satisfied with the earnings of more than 32,000 kroner – 12,000 kroner more than had been earned in Stockholm.
During the jubilee summer of 1923 in Gothenburg Hedvig Carlander was put to her greatest challenge as an organiser as her husband was both the chair of Gothenburg town council and for the exhibition board. More than four million visitors came to Gothenburg that summer, including famous scientists, ministers, businessmen and royalty. Every day at Lyckans Väg 4 a lunch was prepared so that guests of honour could eat there, even if they arrived unexpectedly. In the evenings the local hosts would celebrate at restaurants whenever they were not putting on major dinners at their homes. When the Swedish royal couple came to the jubilee exhibition the whole house was given over to them and the Carlanders moved into the guest accommodation in the attic.
At the outbreak of the Second World War the Kronprinsessans Gåvokommitté för Neutralitetsvakten (("The Crown Princess’s Gift Association For the Neutral Defence Forces”) was established on Crown Princess Louise’s initiative. Hedvig Carlander became the Gothenburg organiser. When the local Gothenburg committee displayed examples of their knitted and sewn goods to the visiting Crown Princess Louise, 22,000 items had already been sent out to various locations around Gothenburg. Further, radio apparatus, gramophones, and musical instruments in good condition had been collected and distributed, along with chocolate, cigarettes and pipe tobacco. These activities continued throughout the duration of the war. Afterwards they altered the focus of their work to knitting and sewing clothes for nursery children in war-ravaged countries. Hedvig Carlander’s house at Lyckans Väg 4 became a depot for collecting material in terms of cloth and wool, and where finished items of clothing could be left for distribution. Several times a week women would gather to cut out, sew and knit clothes, and also to combine completed pieces into suitable combinations, and then pack and send them away. This was done in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Rädda Barnen (Save the Children).
Yet another major activity of Hedvig Carlander was the Carlander hospital. Christofer and Isabella Carlander, along with Axel and Hedvig Carlander, provided the first donation to the hospital in 1916, but it was not until 1927 that the institution was formally opened. In the intervening period Hedvig Carlander had closely studied hospitals in Sweden and in the USA in order to gain inspiration for furnishing the Carlander hospital. She wanted to create a homely environment as this would positively influence the patients’ healing, as would the nearby green surroundings.
Hedvig Carlander received the Illis quorum meruere labores medal in 1927 and the gold medal of the 12th degree for civic service in 1947. She remained on the board for the Carlander hospital until the end of her life and always took an active interest in its workings.
Hedvig Carlander died in 1961 at the age of 86. She is buried at Östra cemetery in Gothenburg.