Lisa Högelin was an author and a translator. Books for girls formed a central element of her writing.
Lisa Högelin was born in 1896. She was the only daughter of Sigrid von Porat and Otto Norell. The family lived in Gävle, where her father worked as a merchant and as the Dutch vice-consul at the time of her birth. Previously he had worked in the book trade for 20 years. Her mother was a housewife. Lisa Högelin enjoyed a comfortable childhood. The family home included a large and varied library and both of her parents encouraged her to read and to study. Her childhood was marked by her parents’ care and an education gained through books. This, along with her mother’s aristocratic origins and a small-town lifestyle and perspectives, formed the background of Lisa Högelin’s childhood.
Lisa Högelin gained her school-leaving certificate from the Gefle Högre flickskola (advanced girls’ school) in 1914. She trained at a domestic vocational school in Uppsala and then served as an assistant at Gävle Stadsbibliotek (city library) for a few years from 1917 onwards. In 1919 she married the businessman Gösta Högelin and moved to Valbo just outside of Gävle. They had four children who were born during the period between 1920 and 1926. Gösta Högelin changed his line of work and became a writer of books for boys, releasing his first book in 1936. He also worked as a translator. One of the Högelins’ daughters, Inger Brattström, also became an author who wrote children’s and young people’s books. She would publish her first book when she was 19 years old.
Lisa Högelin first published during the 1920s under the pseudonym of Lisbet Norring. She wrote for weekly journals such as Husmodern, Vårt Hem, Idun, Allers, and Folket i Bild. She also published stories under her own name in Dagens Nyheter, Stockholms-Tidningen, and Svenska Dagbladet. Later on she returned to using the pseudonym of Lisbet Norring again, as well as the pseudonyms of Karin Norrgården and Randi Wessel.
Lisa Högelin published her first novel, Katten Sussi och hennes familj in 1933, when she was 37 years old. She released her first girls’ book, Landsförvist, in 1935. In the period between 1933 and the late 1950s she wrote about 40 novels, mainly girls’ books, and she translated novels from English – usually from the same genre as her own books. During the 1950s most of her translations were of books for young people, but during the 1960s her main output was translations of books for adults. She often translated the latter in collaboration with her husband. Following his death in 1976 she continued to translate and during the final years of her life she gained a contract with a mass-marketing company for which she translated a book per month.
Some of Lisa Högelin’s girls’ books which have become known are Heja Babben! Berättelse för flickor, from 1938; När den rätte kommer. En berättelse om och för unga flickor, from 1939; Fröken agronomen. Roman för unga flickor, from 1939; Fyra flickor på vakt. Berättelse för flickor, from 1941; and Mysteriet på Klingsbo. Berättelse för flickor, from 1955.
Lisa Högelin’s novels can be viewed against the background of her own life, not least against the background of her formative environment. In several of her novels she threw the gender stereotypes of her time to the wind although the majority of her extensive output actually followed current conventions. Several of her stories reproduce the well-worn girl’s book theme of a young girl’s release from and struggle against authority, frequently ending with a capitulation and conforming to the behavioural codes and dominant gender norms of the day. The many determined girls of her novels abandon their own dreams and allow themselves to be subsumed by the patriarchy. A woman’s role is depicted as the carer of the home and as a good spouse and mother. Lisa Högelin’s novels are played out in bourgeois home environments. Mention of class struggles are rare. Small-town moral codes dominate, which entails a demand for respectable attire and irreproachable lifestyles. Although love affairs and crushes are portrayed, these appear with a remarkable absence of eroticism. In situations where physical contact is expected between the young girl and boy, the young girl’s loathing for physical contact with the opposite sex is depicted instead. The themes of Lisa Högelin’s girls’ books are taken from the fairy-tale of Cinderella and H.C. Andersen’s story The Ugly Duckling. Another often recurring theme is the girls’ expectation that the ‘right’ young man exists. The didactic purpose behind the stories is apparent: a young girl should be neat and well-brought up, whilst also being able to resolve problems on her own. She should be confident and optimistic. As regards physical contact with the opposite sex this should be resisted until she can marry the man she is waiting for.
Lisa Högelin was often a target of literary critics’ condemnation but she was appreciated by her young contemporary readers. Although later research shares the earlier critics’ condemnation it has also highlighted her merits, not least when she broke with gender norms and portrayed girls questioning the gender system and when strong girls showed determination and resolved their own and others' problems without male involvement. Examples ranged from everyday problems to criminal matters solved by a young female detective. Some of Lisa Högelin’s novels can be viewed as ‘developmental’ novels. Social commentary sometimes occurs, such as when the countryside is held up as an ideal in opposition to the unhealthy city environment. Women who grew up reading Lisa Högelin’s girls’ books have testified as to how much the books meant to them during their childhoods, not least the stories in which young girls tried to make their own way even when their intentions are eventually for nought.
Lisa Högelin died in 1980.