Johanna Lohm was a countess and the director of the ‘mamsell’ school known as the Lohm finishing school for girls, which was the most famous such institution in Stockholm in the late 1700s.
Johanna Lohm was born a baroness in 1747. She was the daughter of Juliana Sofia Grossman and Johann Pechlin, a minister from Holstein in Stockholm who had been ennobled in 1740 under the name of Pechlin Edler von Löwenbach. She came from a home where intellectual and political pursuits were the norm. Her father had studied at Greifswald and started his career as a chief-librarian of the Duke of Gottorp’s library. Her mother was the daughter of the learned Emanuel Grossman, a linguist who spoke several oriental languages and was also active within the sphere of medical science.
Johanna Lohm had several siblings, including two older half-brothers, Detlev Philip and Carl Fredrik. Carl Fredrik later became a major-general and is best known to posterity as one of the main conspirators behind the murder of King Gustav III. She also had several sisters, including a younger sister named Adolfina Lovisa (who lived ca. 1750–1789). When Johanna Lohm was around ten years old her father died and she was then brought up with her siblings in Stockholm. According to contemporary accounts she studied abroad, and was appreciated by her social peers. She was particularly well-known for her conversational ability and for her “quick-witted and satirical tongue”.
In 1778 Johanna Lohm married Carl Johan Lohm, a lieutenant-colonel in the artillery. The following year their daughter named Johanna Catharina Lohm was born. They had a son, Carl Gregorius, in 1781. Carl Johan Lohm died of gangrene in 1785, leaving his wife and children without any income. Initially they were supported by her older brother Carl Fredrik Pechlin, but following his fall from grace in 1792 they were again left penniless. Johanna Lohm endured severe financial difficulties. There were very few options left open to women in her social position. Shortly after her brother’s imprisonment she opened a ‘mamsell’ (finishing) school, known as the Lohm finishing school for girls, and at the time it was considered to be the most eminent institution of its kind. Its reputation extended far beyond Stockholm. The school operated from 1792 until 1810, and its main task was to educate “daughters of the better sort” and turn them into ideal wives and mothers rather than to educate them in academic subjects. Despite this Johanna Lohm was an ambitious teacher and her school was very popular amongst the higher echelons of Stockholm society. Following a decline in popularity from 1810 onwards Johanna Lohm’s school began to accept younger children, both boys and girls, on a half-board basis. She was considered to be a strict but skilled teacher, who was conscientious and meticulous in her teaching.
Johanna Lohm died in February 1834. By that time she had endured straitened financial conditions for a long time and she lived out her final year subsisting more or less on loans from friends and acquaintances. She never repaid these loans. Her daughter Johanna Catharina had begun to manufacture and sell various luxury items for Stockholm shops in order to earn enough money to live. Johanna Lohm’s funeral was apparently paid for by King Karl Johan.