Maggie Stephens was a successful estate owner in southern Småland in the mid-1900s.
Margreth (Maggie) Hedvig Ingegerd Stephens was born in 1883, the youngest of the three daughters of works owner Joseph Stephens and his wife Elisabeth Stephens, née Kreüger, at Huseby works. Her paternal grandfather was the language researcher Professor George Stephens. Her eldest sister Florence Stephens took over Huseby and became known as the Damsel of Huseby. She was mixed up in a number of trials from the end of the 1950s. Her middle sister Mary Stephens was close to Maggie Stephens and had her own room both in her sister’s home in Stockholm and also at Torne, part of the Huseby property.
The sisters grew up at Huseby and in Stockholm where they spent a good deal of time when Joseph Stephens was a member of parliament. The sisters had no formal education but were taught at home by governesses. Maggie Stephens was the only one of the sisters to acquire further education, over and above tuition at home. She spent one academic year in 1900—1901 at a boarding school in Hanover in Germany, where her studies were concentrated on languages: German, English and French. During the years before the first world war, she travelled to spas and bathing resorts all over Europe.
Maggie Stephens’s health was frail. Above all the years after her parents’ deaths, first her mother’s in 1911 and then her father’s in 1934, were strongly influenced by her physical and mental ill health. However, she kept up long friendships that can be followed in her carefully saved correspondence. Maggie Stephens remained unmarried and lived at Huseby with her father and sister Florence until their father’s death, when she was 50 years old. According to their parents’ will, she inherited the Ålshult section of the Huseby complex. It was a smaller and humbler section than her sisters’ inheritances. Florence had inherited the main manor farm of Huseby and Mary had inherited Torne, which awoke great bitterness in Maggie Stephens. It took a long time as well before she settled down at Ålshult. For long periods, she lived in hospitals and with her sister Mary at Torne.
As an estate owner however, Maggie Stephens was more successful than either of her sisters. Her enterprise was often run from her invalid bed via letters and messengers, in which her interest for the minutest detail in the care of her estate is noticeable. Thanks to her capacity for selecting loyal and capable co-workers, Ålshult bloomed with among other things a saw mill that had about 50 workers. On her death in 1958, the estate was valued at about four million kronor (more than 50 million kronor in 2020’s monetary value). In addition to that there were also the goods and chattels and a large fortune in stocks and bonds. That means that she had succeeded really well in managing what she had inherited 24 years previously. She also had the idea that she had created her fortune herself and was therefore morally free to will it to whomsoever she wished. That Florence would be declared incapacitated in 1957 on account of neglecting the care of Huseby also probably played a role in her decision to allow most of her estate go to her physician Fredrik Koch. Her sisters contested her will, in a legal process that aroused a great deal of attention, in which Maggie Stephens’s dependence on her physician and her legal capacity in the writing of her will were questioned. The conflict ended in a settlement that meant that a foundation in her name was started at the University of Lund: Maggie Stephens stiftelse för medicinsk vetenskaplig forskning.
Maggie Stephens is buried in the Stephens family grave in Solna Cemetery. In the Huseby archive at Linnaeus University, Maggie Stephens’s private archive is to be found. It contains a wealth of letters including correspondence with relatives and friends. Her letters to her parents and sisters have been saved in their respective archives.