Lotten von Kræmer has largely been remembered as the founder of Samfundet De Nio (the Nine Society), a literary academy whose main purpose was to award prizes for Swedish literature. Lotten von Kræmer was also active as a writer.
Lotten von Kræmer was born in 1828. She was the youngest of five in her family. Her father Robert von Kræmer was of Swedish-Finnish noble ancestry. He was appointed county governor of Uppsala county in 1830. His official residence was Uppsala castle, where Lotten von Kræmer enjoyed what, at that time, was a solid upbringing. She was home-schooled by teachers from Uppsala university and went on several overseas trips with her family. She developed literary interests at an early point and benefited from regular socialising with the likes of P.D.A. Atterbom, the Geijer family, Malla Silfverstolpe, and Thekla Knös. She suffered from scarlet fever when she was a young teenager which caused damage to her hearing and eventual deafness, deeply influencing her future. She visited several specialist doctors in Europe seeking treatment but to no avail. During a trip to Ireland in 1857 she met the poet and women’s rights activist Jane Wilde – who was married to the doctor William Wilde and was the mother of Oscar Wilde – who became an important source of inspiration for her engagement on behalf of women’s rights.
In 1855 Lotten von Kræmer secretly got engaged to Sten Johan Stenberg, a docent in aesthetics at Uppsala university. Their relationship lasted 15 years but their engagement was finally broken off as Stenberg could not cope with her literary ambitions, her publications, and her liberal ideas with regard to women’s rights. Lotten von Kræmer published the play Strid in 1869 which deals with her own experience of this draining relationship in literary form. She reworked the play several times and when it was published in 1882 it bore the title Felicia, while the 1902 edition was called Fama. Her literary version of the story supplies a happy ending to the struggle between art and love. The lovers become reconciled when the fictional Sofia agrees to give love and creativity equal attention and the fictional Artur understands that writing is Sofia’s calling.
Lotten von Kræmer made her literary debut in 1863 with a collection of poems and then went on to publish travelogues, books of essays, and more poetry. Her poems tend to be lyrical observations of nature, typical representations of the period, love poetry, and tributes to well-known people. Her 1866 work entitled Tankar i religiösa ämnen was her contribution to the current debate on faith and knowledge in which she defended the source-critical stance that Viktor Rydberg proposed in his controversial 1862 book Bibelns lära om Kristus. Lotten von Kræmer’s other work includes Fantasi-klängväxter kring verklighets stam, from 1865, Bland skotska berg och sjöar, from 1870, the poetry collections Ackorder, from 1870, Den kämpande anden, from 1892, and Hägringar och luftslott from 1895, as well as Nästa gång…Berättelser och skisser, from 1902. Samfundet De Nio published a 4-volume set of her collected works in 1915. She was published in Tidskrift för hemmet and was in contact with its editors Sophie Adlersparre and Rosalie Olivecrona. She was on the receiving end of negative criticism during her career, not just from her fiancé but also from established reviewers such as Sophie Adlersparre, Georg Brandes, and Lorenz Dietrichson. She did not allow herself to be dispirited and carried on regardless. From the end of the 1860s she increased her literary output and during the 1877–1879 period she published the journal Vår tid which was aimed at capturing the literary trends of the era. She was elected into Föreningen för gift kvinnas äganderätt (the association for married women’s property rights) in 1878. The following year she moved to Villagatan 14 in Stockholm, which later became the base for Samfundet De Nio. Her sunset years were marked by loneliness and isolation due to her deafness and she got a reputation for being somewhat eccentric in her local area.
She provided financial support to Handarbetets Vänner (friends of handicrafts) and Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet (association). In 1872 she established a stipend for female university students at Uppsala. She contributed financially to the International women’s suffrage conference in Stockholm in 1911. She became increasingly wealthy over time and by the turn of the 1900s she had decided that her wealth should be used to establish a literary society. She quickly and radically decided that this society should consist of nine members: four women and four men, whilst the position of chair should be alternately held by a woman and then a man. She firmed up her plans in her will in 1910 and this led to a struggle with her relatives who found it hard to accept her decision. They questioned her psychological health which led to her allowing an investigation by two well-respected psychiatrists. They established that she was mentally sound and fully capable of making her own decisions.
Lotten von Kræmer died on 23 December 1912. She is buried at the Gamla cemetery in Uppsala, next to Engelska parken in which her father had had trees planted, and just a few minutes’ walk from her childhood home at Uppsala castle. Her creation of Samfundet De Nio was constituted in 1913 and has since then played a decisive role in supporting Swedish literature.