Louise Ulfhielm was a central figure of Riksförbundet Sveriges lottakårer (the Swedish Women’s Voluntary Defence Service), particularly within her role as head of the national organisation from 1966–1974.
Louise Ulfhielm was born in 1917 into a small-business family in Linköping. Her mother was a pastry chef and ran a café in the town for over 30 years. Her father was a tailor. Inspired by her mother’s patisserie business Louise Ulfhielm had visions of a future in the restaurant industry, but the wartime years of the Second World War led her life in a very different direction. She, like many other young women, found her way into the ‘lotta’ movement.
On an autumn day in 1940 Louise Ulfhielm, then 23 years old, noticed that horses which had been seconded from Östgöta farms were being led up Storgatan in Linköping. The oppressive and serious atmosphere, as horse-owners parted sorrowfully from their steeds, left a strong impression on her and she decided that she would volunteer in defence of her country. She made her way to the local ‘lotta’ corps where she was trained as a medical ‘lotta’ and she served at the Livgrenadjär regiment (I 4) hospital in Linköping. She also became active within the ‘lotta’ corps organisation’s association work, recruiting members, raising funds, supplying victuals, as well as knitting socks, knee-pads, gloves and scarves for mobilised soldiers. Once she had been appointed ‘idrottslotta’ (sports ‘lotta’) she was given the task of holding orienteering competitions and training the ‘lotta’ volunteers for parade duty.
Louise Ulfhielm moved to Stockholm in 1950 following her marriage that year to Börje Ulfhielm, a captain in the Svea livgarde. Her move to the capital city brought her to the attention of the head of the Stockholms flyglottakår (airforce ‘lotta’ corps) who wanted her to serve as their branch ‘idrottslotta’. As her husband was army and not serving within the airforce Louise Ulfhielm rejected the offer and approached the army ‘lotta’ corps instead. However, she only remained with them for a brief time. In 1953 her husband was appointed major at the military command base in Boden and the couple thus moved north. Louise Ulfhielm had already been approached by the chair of the Norrbotten ‘lotta’ association before the move and had been recruited into the local branch. She spent five years as the youth and sports instructor of the Norrbotten association, travelling around the local countryside holding training sessions and meeting representatives of local ‘lotta’ corps and youth divisions.
In response to the growing youth involvement in the ‘lotta’ movement a youth council was established within the national ‘lotta’ board in 1957. Louise Ulfhielm was appointed as one of the council’s first members, thereby giving her a direct link to the national organisation. In 1959 she was appointed as the national organisation’s second deputy chair, serving the newly-arrived national ‘lotta’ head, Ingrid Norlander. By this point Louise Ulfhielm was once again living in Stockholm as her husband had just been appointed to a post within the national military staff the previous year. Louise Ulfhielm has written in her memoires that upon her return to the capital city she had intended to enter the salaried labour market instead of nearly working fulltime for the ‘lotta’ movement for very little pay and benefits. This was not to be, however. As second deputy chair of one of the largest women’s organisations in the country she was extremely busy. The recompense she received for all her work was only 100 kroner a month, or ‘railway money’ as she subsequently termed it. In combination with the current head of the ‘lotta’ organisation, Ingrid Norlander, Louise Ulfhielm campaigned for increased remuneration for the organisation’s functionaries as well as heavy increases in the state contribution to the ‘lotta’ movement.
In 1961 Louise Ulfhielm was appointed deputy chair of the ‘lotta’ movement and in 1966 she succeeded Ingrid Norlander as head of the national organisation. She continued the public relations work and efforts regarding recruiting members begun by her predecessor. During Louise Ulfhielm’s leadership the ‘lotta’ movement’s training system was decentralised, which meant that local ‘lotta’ branches once again took on the planning of and holding of the internal ‘lotta’ courses, which in turn led to an increase in the number of courses on offer.
Louise Ulfhielm resigned from the post of head of the national ‘lotta’ organisation in 1974 in order to take a salaried job. Initially she spent some time working at Sifo, interviewing potential bosses for larger businesses, and then she worked at the royal court where she responded to letters on behalf of the royal household. She maintained contact with the ‘lotta’ movement, however, and in 1984 she returned as a member of the board, to which she had been elected as a representative of the Stockholm army ‘lotta’ corps. Louise Ulfhielm was also active in writing the history of the ‘lotta’ movement. She and Birgitta Andersson produced a work on the organisation’s development for the organisation’s 60th anniversary in 1984. In 1996 Louise Ulfhielm published her autobiography about her period within the ‘lotta’ movement, entitled Minne från mina lottaår.
Louise Ulfhielm died in Stockholm in 2010.