Karin Schultz was one of the first proper radio critics in Sweden. She was active from the mid-1900s onwards, initially in Dagens Nyheter and then in Stockholms-Tidningen. Her caustic articles generated admiration as well as anger both from those on the receiving end and from Radiotjänst (the state radio service).
Karin Schultz was born in 1892. She grew up in Söder, Stockholm as the eldest of six sisters. Her father was an assistant for Kommerskollegium (the national board of trade) who also worked as a proof-reader for various newspapers. Her mother was a pre-school teacher who carried on working even though some of her nine children were very young. Karin Schultz attended public school for five years and then transferred to the Wallin school, an advanced girls’ school from which she graduated with her school-leaving certificate in 1911. Her greatest dream was to become an actor but due to her family’s financially straitened situation she instead applied to attend a public-school teacher-training programme. However, she was not accepted onto the programme because she had received very low marks in religious studies – which at that time was a particularly important subject for trainee teachers. Instead, she was awarded a stipend from Stockholms högskola (college) which she used to fulfil her family’s wish that she study natural sciences with the aim of becoming a teacher. She gained her Bachelor’s degree in 1915 and her licentiate of philosophy in astronomy three years later.
Whilst completing her licentiate studies Karin Schultz also taught at Ångmans elementary school for boys. Both she and her young male charges benefited greatly from her engagement in this role. She also took drama lessons, albeit she was unsuccessful in her attempt at getting into the Dramaten theatre school.
Following her graduation Karin Schultz became employed as a statistician at Stockholmssystemet (alcohol monopoly), founded in 1914 by doctor Ivar Bratt. He proved to be an enthusiastic boss at a workplace where the environment was characterised by cooperation and a spirit of camaraderie.
Karin Schultz had joined the women’s suffrage movement as soon as she gained her school-leaving certificate, and three years later – in 1914 – she joined the newly-established Förening frisinnade kvinnor (liberal women’s society). There she served as “part secretary, part dogsbody for the board” and came to know most of the leading women’s rights campaigners of her day. At college she herself would industriously defend women’s rights during discussions, often as the sole woman faced with an overwhelmingly male student corps.
She still dreamed of acting, however. Karin Schultz carried on taking lessons and once again applied to enter the theatre school. Despite doing exceptionally well in her entrance exam she was now deemed too old to be accepted. She was 30. Nevertheless, thanks to a very kind letter of recommendation in 1923 she gained an acting job at Helsingborgs stadsteater (city theatre). She grew tired, though, of only performing ‘old women’ roles and then returned to working part-time at Stockholmssystemet, from 1925–1943. She later wrote a novel, published in 1951, which was called Sceningång and was based on her experiences in the theatre. In it she portrays her workplace, the actors, and the directors in a very bleak fashion – the lead character commits suicide.
In addition to her part-time job Karin Schultz travelled around the country giving talks on behalf of Folkbildningsförbundet (public education association), ABF, and Centralförbundet för nykterhetsundervisning (central association for temperance instruction). She was also hired by the radio as an announcer. She joined the anti-Nazi Förbundet Kämpande Demokrati (pro-democracy association), which had been founded by Ture Nerman, serving as its chair from 1940–1944. She was heavily involved in the organisation and undertook many travels in order to inform public opinion – as she later described it, she “wore herself out”. Intra-organisational conflicts also contributed to these negative effects, along with Nazi persecution, and the national intelligence agency’s registration and surveillance activities. Förbundet Kämpande Demokrati rejected the adoption of a position of neutrality and was subsequently considered to be weak in terms of national loyalty. Karin Schultz was called in for police interrogation a couple of times.
On Karin Schultz’s 50th birthday Torgny Segerstedt acclaimed her contribution as a chair in Förbundet Kämpande Demokrati, saying: “Her intelligence, radical view of life, and her warm idealism make her a true democrat”. After the war she was awarded the King Haakon VII Freedom Cross.
In 1943 Karin Schultz resigned from her job at Stockholmssystemet following the arrival of a new boss who was a Nazi-sympathiser. The next year she got a temporary position as a radio critic at Dagens Nyheter which became a permanent post in 1946. Towards the end of the 1950s she transferred to Stockholms-Tidningen where she remained until the mid-1960s.
Karin Schultz often found radio programmes to be substandard and she expressed her views bluntly. She was disapproving of the far too basic level of the entertainment offered, the poor quality of the radio plays, and that the radio announcers were untrained. Karin Schultz questioned why the population should be offered substandard fare and called for youth drama with natural dialogue which was not only written to convey simple morals. She also criticised the inequality between the sexes: there was a dearth of female voices on the radio and they were rarely heard in political debates, whilst women’s lives and situations were rarely covered on the radio. She called for the establishment of guidelines and a policy statement from the head of the radio. Both Radiotjänst and many listeners were shocked by her outspokenness and complaints about the Dagens Nyheter radio critic poured in. However, the newspaper’s editor, Herbert Tingsten, defended her and in his memoires he lauds her “temperamental, stylish, elegant criticism”.
Karin Schultz could also be constructive and congratulatory in her comments. She suggested that an enunciation school be set up for announcers and readers. She also suggested that every classroom should have a radio and that a variety of radio companies should be set up. Several actors were noted for their pleasant voices and clear and beautiful radio-voices. She liked Gösta Knutsson’s sports question programme, as well as programmes by Lars Madsén and Ingrid Samuelsson, whilst she highlighted Karl Gerhard as the only quick-witted man in the kingdom. She received approval and recognition of her views and suggestions in her polemical 1951 book, Syndare på Kungsgatan, which summarises Karin Schultz’ criticisms.
Karin Schultz never married. From 1941 onwards she shared her flat with her colleague and friend Alma Braathen. Towards the end of her life she began to work on her memoires, which Askild & Kärnekull Förlag had accepted for publication. However, she died in 1974 before she had completed her manuscript. She rests in the memorial garden at The Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm.