Ingeborg Walin belongs to the first generation of female home economics teachers in Sweden. She was a leading figure in promoting school cookery classes during the late nineteenth century.
Ingeborg Walin was born in 1868. She was the youngest daughter of the sexton and organist Knut Alfred Walin and his wife Sofie Silfversvan in Leksand. She came from a well-to-do home which could afford to pay for further education for all the children in the family. In Ingeborg Walin’s case this entailed attending the Högre lärarinneseminariet (advanced teacher training programme) in Stockholm. Ingeborg Walin graduated in 1889 and completed further courses at Stockholm College during the academic year of 1889-1890. In 1891 she was given the opportunity to go on a study trip, funded by the Swedish state, to Germany, Belgium and England to learn how cookery was taught in those countries. At the time there was a growing educational interest in combining practical cookery teaching with theoretical studies in nutritional physiology in Sweden. Gunnar Wennerberg, then minister of education, authorised a travel grant of 1200 Swedish crowns for Ingeborg Walin, who had just graduated from teacher training and had shown an interest for the emerging ideas in school cookery classes. She was accompanied on her research trip by another prominent figure in school cookery, Ida Norrby. This trip came to have a decisive influence on both of their careers as pioneers in Swedish school cookery teaching.
Following the research trip, in 1892 Ingeborg Walin was tasked with running Högre lärarinneseminariet’s newly established home economics school in Stockholm. This school became known as Statens skolköksseminarium (the national school cookery training school) from 1926 onwards. Ingeborg Schager was employed at the school as a colleague of Ingeborg Walin and she became Ingeborg Walin’s companion both in their professional and private lives. Ingeborg Schager took over the running of the school in 1919 when Ingeborg Walin left to become the first advisor to the school authority board and an inspector of home economics teaching. The two women along with the school cookery teacher Gertrud Bergström formed an important troika in the capital city, which worked to strengthen, disseminate and develop knowledge of home economics in Sweden. In addition to their collegiate collaboration in schools, associations and societies, the three unmarried women also lived together in Stockholm for most of their lives.
Ingeborg Walin was a driving force in the development of school cookery classes – also known as home economics – in several ways. She authored a considerable number of teaching resources, cookbooks and collections of recipes, both on her own and together with Ingeborg Schager or Gertrud Bergström. She was active on behalf of school cookery teachers, which is evident in her membership of the board of Svenska Skolkökslärarinnorans förening, as well as De kvinnliga kårsammanslutningarnas centralråd. She also represented the profession at an international level. She attended the International Federation for Home Economics conferences in Ghent in 1913 and in Paris in 1922 as the Swedish government’s representative. She was also active within Nordic school cookery collaboration. As a headmaster and teacher, as well as in her role as the school authority’s inspector for home economics teaching, she contributed significantly to the teaching of home economics and was able to influence its development and the activities and status of the field’s professionals.
Ingeborg Walin’s activism on behalf of home economics teaching was entwined with her activism for women’s issues. She saw home economics education as a sphere of activities which provided women with training and career opportunities, improved status, as well as wider social and economic freedom. Her activism for women’s rights and their participation in society thus involved on the one hand engagement with organisations which were dedicated to women’s issues, such as Svenska Kvinnors Medborgarförbund and the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance, and on the other hand her industrious work on behalf of home economics teaching.
Ingeborg Walin’s position as a member of Statens folkhushållningskommission (the national public home economics commission) during the crisis years of the First World War testifies to the significance of her comprehensive expertise in the subject. Her employment by Stockholm’s public school authority as well as her work with the school authority furthermore show that she was also an important educator. Toward the end of her life she was awarded the royal medal Illis quorum in recognition of her general contributions to Sweden.
Ingeborg Walin died in 1936.