Henrika Widmark was an author who was active in the women’s movement during the second half of the nineteenth century. She was also a landowner who successfully operated the farm Lingatan in Lysekil.
Henrika Widmark was born in Ljusdal parish in September 1848. Her mother was Maria Widmark and her father was Henrik Widmark, governor of Norrbotten county. She came from a sizable family and had many siblings. Her father had seven children from his first marriage to Carolina Ström. Several of these children did not, however, survive into adulthood.
When Henrika Widmark was 20 years old she and her family moved to Stockholm, where she joined various associations and socialised with the city’s high society. Her closest friends were Lotty Bruzelius, née Kempe, and Lotty’s sister Bertha. They would remain close throughout Henrika Widmark’s time in Stockholm as well as after her move to the west coast at the beginning of 1900. Ebba Rudbeck was another of Henrika Widmark’s good friends and they socialised frequently. Henrika Widmark published her first book in Stockholm, through Albert Bonnier publishers. Although she had written since she was young this was her first publication. It was an illustrated children’s book called Barnafröjd: Berättelser på vers och prosa and was released in 1885 under the pseudonym H. Mark. Her next book was not published until four years later. It was also a children’s book, published at Christmas 1889, also under the pseudonym of H. Mark. This time the publisher was P.A. Norstedt. After a discussion on the importance of using native artists arose in relation to the inclusion of drawings by British artists in Henrika Widmark’s first book, her second, Julklapp till svenska barn, was only illustrated by Swedish artists. The illustrators included Bruno Liljefors, Ottilia Adelborg and Natanael Beskow.
Henrika Widmark was deputy secretary of the Nya Idun society from 1894 to 1904. She was also a member of the board of Handarbetets Vänner, an association which had been established in 1874 by Sophie Adlersparre with the aim of promoting Swedish textile crafts. The association set up pattern design studios and distributed commissions to weavers across the country. It also set up training courses for weaving instructors. Henrika Widmark’s interest in design was highly visible throughout her life.
During the second half of the 1890s Henrika Widmark became seriously ill. Once she had recovered she decided to follow a new path and moved to the west coast of Sweden. She spent the following years travelling between Stockholm and Lysekil, where she had a summerhouse from 1895, which she sold in order to buy two larger plots in Brastad near Lysekil. The plots totalled 40 hectares, beautifully situated up high on a granite cliff near the Gullmarsfjord. Half of the land which made up Lingatan farm was fertile fields. The house was ready to move into in 1903 and after that the agricultural buildings were raised. Henrika Widmark, who moved into the stately main building constructed in a style inspired by national romanticism, was accompanied at the farm by foreman Carlsson and his family, and others who had been hired to work on the farm.
For the ensuing years Henrika Widmark lived off the produce of her land and was self-sufficient. She had planted fruit trees bearing various types of apples and peaches, and grain from her fields as well as eggs and milk were all sold, for instance at the Uddevalla market. Henrika Widmark won several awards at Hushållningssällskapet (housekeeping society) exhibitions for her rye, wheat and peas. In the winter months Henrika Widmark produced rugs and runners in her textile and weaving rooms.
During the 15 years that Henrika Widmark lived at Lingatan she wrote both prose and poetry. She collaborated with Helena Munktell, a composer. The first cantata they composed together was performed at the National Council of Swedish Women confeernce in Stockholm on 21 September 1897. Henrika Widmark composed the text and Helena Munktell wrote the music, written for a solo soprano and women’s choir. Henrika Widmark continued to write texts for musical pieces which were performed at significant celebrations, such as Ellen Key’s farewell ceremony from Nya Idun’s board, or King Oscar II’s visit to Lysekil in August 1900. Henrika Widmark wrote “Skansens vårsång” in the winter of 1912, which was performed at Skansen.
Henrika Widmark thus focused on writing texts while she was tending to her farm and receiving guests from afar at Lingatan. She ran a long campaign to have the road to Lingatan upgraded to a district road, and for a train station to be built at Hallinden, which was a few kilometres away from her farm. She was successful in the latter and Hallinden station was built.
Henrika Widmark died in January 1920. She would have turned 70 that year. She was buried in the family plot in Stockholm. As she had no descendants and no-one in the family wanted to take over the farm at Lingatan, her estate was sold to Gothenburg town. Two years later a care home for delinquent girls was set up at the farm, where agricultural work and tending to the fruit trees became part of the girls’ professional training. The institution ran at Lingatan until 1954.
The same year that Henrika Widmark died her friends released her collected texts in a posthumous volume, entitled Ur Henrika Widmarks papper: minnesblad tillägnade hennes vänner, published in 1920. It was compiled by Bertha Hübner and includes all the song texts and poems which Henrika Widmark had written for Nya Idun over the years.