Lilly Hellström’s name is primarily associated with Folkskolans Barntidning as well as with the publication of children’s books. In addition to that she was very active in the Swedish women’s movement as well as within municipal politics on behalf of Allmänna valmansförbundet (today the Moderate Party).
Lilly Hellström was born in 1866 in Nyköping. Her father ran a bookshop, which was also a publishing house. Lilly was educated at Nyköping elementarskola (foundational school) for girls. She later worked at the school as a teacher, from 1885 until 1889, before she got married to a merchant called John Hellström. He died just two months after the wedding, however. Lilly Hellström became close friends with another teacher in Nyköping, Stina Quint, who was active in Sveriges Allmänna Folkskollärarförening (SAF) (a teachers’ association).
Lilly Hellström and Stina Quint both had an idea of providing children with access to good reading material by publishing a magazine specifically aimed at children and by publishing books through their own children’s books publishing house. It was primarily Stina Quint who presented their ideas as an entrepreneur. She was unsuccessful at getting SAF interested in their project. However, she obtain support from Sophie Adlersparre, who wrote under the pseudonym of Esselde and who published the journal Dagny. In 1892 Stina Quint was given permission to produce Folkskolans Barntidning. She approached prominent people and successfully convinced Queen Sophia and the Crown Princess Victoria to become subscribers.
The editorial team was set up within bookseller Kullberg’s premises and the magazine was printed in his bookbindery until 1896. That same year both Lilly Hellström and Stina Quint moved to Stockholm, where they set up a publishing house primarily for children’s books. Stina Quint was in charge whilst Lilly Hellström was the executive director with significant responsibility for the company, particularly during Stina Quint’s many trips abroad. Lilly Hellström was also an active member of the Fredrika Bremer association, for instance as the treasurer for the Stockholm section. She was also a member of the Hedvig Eleonora parish school council.
Lilly Hellström was Stina Quint’s co-editor. From 1904 to 1917 they both lived in Villa Hagen in Elfvik on Lidingö. Their house became a gathering place for writers, journalists, artists, suffragettes, and municipal politicians. At the same time they were both active in the Stockholm Moderate party women’s association and they were on the Moderate party women’s committee, which cooperated with Allmänna valmansförbundet (AVF) in order to try and find solutions to the women’s suffrage issues. From 1917 onwards Lilly Hellström developed Moderata Kvinnors Rösträttsförening (MKR, Moderate party women’s suffrage association) as a part of Landsföreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (LKPR, National Association for Women's Suffrage). They were also represented in a collaborative effort between AVF and Sveriges Moderata Kvinnoförbund (Moderate women’s association of Sweden). After Stina Quint’s death in 1924 Lilly Hellström remained the sole leader of their company.
Lilly Hellström’s contributions are in the main tied to Stina Quint. It is hard to determine which of the two of them came up with the ideas and how they divided the work between them, but it is likely that the great success they had with Folkskolans Barntidning and the associated children’s book publishing house was down to both of their efforts.
After Stina Quint’s death Lilly Hellström became politically active in Allmänna valmansförbundet and became a member of Stockholmshögerns förbundsstyrelse (Stockholm right-wing party association board) and its associated women’s council. She was also an elector in the first chamber election, and became an inspector for the children’s home run by the childcare authority.
Lilly Hellström died in 1930.