Maj Fant was a fashion model who changed her career path and became a social worker, author and journalist. She mainly dealt with issues concerning women’s rights and sexuality and matters surrounding co-habitation, in part through her role as the association secretary and chair of the Riksförbund för sexuell upplysning (RFSU) (national association for sexual enlightenment).
Maj Fant was born in Lund in 1930. She was the daughter of Ernst Lindberg, a banker, and his wife Gurli Andersson, a fur seamstress. Maj Fant graduated as a private student in 1950. She was very aware of the latest trends and this led her to enter the fashion industry. She quickly became known for her beauty and charisma, which led to her becoming a much sought-after fashion model and photographer’s model at an early age. In the 1960s she realised that the future lay in the advertising industry and she extended her professional work in that direction.
The societal changes introduced in the 1970s led Maj Fant to alter the direction of her life and change careers by enrolling at the Socialhögskola (social-work college). After gaining her qualification as a social worker she spent four years working within Malmö social-services centre from 1979 onwards. She focused on combatting substance abuse amongst young people. Due to the experience she gained through her work she was tasked with leading the National Board of Health and Welfare’s project on caring for drug addicts. She was subsequently appointed investigations secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs. During her time in that post she continued to lecture on matters concerning substance abuse, at schools, for various social movement groups, and in a variety of educational contexts. When she lectured she was able to engender a connection to her audiences. She would speak about real life, about sexuality, and about the right to age with dignity. It was during this period that her reputation as an accomplished popular educator and opinion-former became established.
Maj Fant’s interest in social issues brought her to the RFSU. Her ability to make people listen was of significance when she was appointed secretary of the association in 1980. She held that post until 1987, at which point she became elected as the chair of RFSU. Although she left this post after just one year, she set up and participated in many debates while she was chair. She promoted the classic RFSU issues on sexuality and the right to decide on what happens to your own body, as well as proper sex-education in school. Demands to protect the right to safe and legal abortion was also prominent during part of Maj Fant’s leadership of RFSU. Other issues such as pornography and prostitution were also brought to the fore. During Maj Fant’s last period as association secretary of RFSU – which coincided with her brief period as the association chair – towards the end of the 1980s, solid international collaboration was established between RFSU and a sister organisation in Tanzania called Umati. This became the beginning of a new phase of RFSU work and was followed by serious international activism.
During the latter part of her life Maj Fant also wrote autobiographical accounts of the various phases of her life. She wrote about her mother’s diagnosis of dementia in 1988, aptly entitled Att bli mamma till sin mamma. Following the book’s release she received a lot of letters on the subject. When she herself was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) she wrote about it in 1994 in her book entitled Klockan saknar visare. She wanted to raise awareness and understanding of what was then a relatively little-known incurable muscle disease. When her book was launched at the Gothenburg book fair she said: “Sometimes I have wondered if I was meant to get ALS just to raise awareness of the disease”.
From 1985 onwards, and for as long as she was able, Maj Fant was also a columnist for the Vår bostad magazine. Her columns were usually based on readers’ letters about their own lives and the difficulties and challenges of being in a relationship. At the age of 62 she hosted her own tv-programme, in which she would interview invited guests and the audience about relationships. She also shared, publicly, her own experiences of love, sorrow and disappointment. Many people apparently found comfort in her writings and her talks.
However, Maj Fant was also a controversial individual. Many of her critics felt that she was far too open-hearted and where wary of the extremely sensitive nature of the issues, such as sexuality and co-habitation, that she dealt with.
In 1995 Maj Fant made her last public appearance as a columnist in Vår bostad. At that point the ALS had progressed to an advanced stage. She died in November that same year at Ingarö.