Helena Ljungberg was a bank teller and a conservative-party politician. In the spring of 1910 she was elected onto Umeå town council.
Helena Ljungberg was the daughter of Bernhard Ljungberg, a county official, and Maria Grafström. The family came to number five children, four of whom survived into adulthood. Helena Ljungberg had a younger sister named Fanny Bergström who became one of the founders of the local branch of Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet in Umeå in 1923. Helena Ljungberg also had two older brothers. Her maternal grandfather was Anders Grafström from Backen, who was a well-known local rural dean and poet. He was twice married, each time to daughters of Bishop Frans Mikael Franzén of Härnösand, also a poet. The whole Ljungberg family has therefore come to be seen as a respected part of the Franzén family.
Helena Ljungberg was only six when she lost her mother. In 1880 her father’s unmarried sister, Karin Kristina Ljungberg, moved in with the family. The next year, when Helena Ljungberg was sixteen, she began to attend the public school teacher-training programme in Umeå, although she does not appear to have completed the course. A few years later she opted to follow a less traditional training option. During 1884 she studied at the respected Smedmans handelsskola (school of business) in Stockholm, having perhaps taken inspiration from her older brother, Abraham Ljungberg, who was a banker. Regardless, during the town fire of 1888 their childhood home went up in flames, after which the family moved into a building exactly at the point where the fire had been extinguished. Helena Ljungberg carried on living in the family home, along with her sister, brother and paternal aunt, even after the death of her father in 1895.
A few years after the move, in 1892, Helena Ljungberg was able to put her business skills to use when she gained employment as a bank clerk at Västerbotten county savings bank. It is known that from at least 1902 onwards Helena Ljungberg lived in the same building that housed the bank and this remained her home for most of the rest of her life. She was considered to be a highly reliable individual and in 1910 she was appointed bank teller, a position she retained until her death in 1923.
Helena Ljungberg was an active member of various associations. She was fundamentally conservative in outlook and this found expression by the 1890s already when she joined Svenska kvinnoföreningen för fosterlandets försvar (Swedish women’s association in defence of the homeland). She was also a member of Kvinnornas uppbåd association in Umeå, an organisation set up during the First World War which became closely associated with the women’s suffrage movement. Helena Ljungberg’s philanthropy came to the fore in her engagement with Umeå kvinnors skyddsförening, a women’s welfare organisation that was established in 1867. She was also a member of Föreningen Majblomman (May flower association) which was set up in Umeå in 1908. Helena Ljungberg was elected onto the association board from its inception and remained on it for the rest of her life. She was involved in organising sales of May flowers as well as dealing with the children who received financial aid through the organisation. In 1910 she joined Minerva, a lecturing association set up by the liberals for which group she served as auditor.
Helena Ljungberg was also deputy auditor for the women’s temperance association known as Vita Bandet which was set up in Umeå in 1907. She never took a seat on the board and rarely attended meetings which can perhaps be explained through a sort of sense of loyalty to the more liberal attitude to alcohol as espoused by the conservatives. For example this was expressed in 1918 when she, as a member of the town council, voted in support of allowing pubs to sell spirits. Otherwise a tendency towards prohibition of alcohol was the norm amongst the politicians of Västerbotten. 81 percent of the electorate voted in favour of prohibition in the 1922 national election.
A local suffragette association was established in Umeå in 1903 for which Helena Ljungberg initially served as deputy chair and shortly thereafter as the treasurer. From 1906 onwards, until the association was disbanded following the introduction of universal suffrage, she remained in charge of the accounts.
Women were allowed to stand as representatives on the town council from 1910 onwards and the suffragette association actively worked to find electable women and to get enfranchised women voting. In Umeå the need for a by-election arose in the spring of 1910 and Helena Ljungberg, representing the conservative party, was elected onto the town council. She and another woman, the liberal Anna Grönfeldt, who was secretary of the suffragette association, were re-elected when the regular election was held in December that same year. Ingeborg Öqvist, a liberal who was the association chair, was also elected onto the council at the next election two years later and she remained in post for a long time.
In 1912 Helena Ljungberg was appointed town auditor along with another four auditors and she retained this post for two years. When the town council met in December 1914 neither Helena Ljungberg nor Anna Grönfeldt were re-elected. Helena Ljungberg was returned to the town council in 1916, remaining in post for two years before resigning. The king’s deputy, namely the county board from 1918 onwards, was responsible for appointing auditors and between 1917 and 1919 Helena Ljungberg was appointed Umeå’s new spirit company’s auditor, perhaps a welcome task.
Helena Ljungberg received recognition by her peers from Sparbanken and the county board when in 1921 she was awarded the large gold Patriotiska Sällskapet medal as a merit for her lengthy and loyal service.
Helena Ljungberg died suddenly in 1923, aged 58. She is buried in the family grave at Västra kyrkogården (the Western cemetery) in Umeå.