Maria Cederschiöld was a journalist, chief editor of the foreign office at Aftonbladet, and a women’s rights activist.
Maria Cederschiöld was born in Stockholm in 1856. Her parents were Gustaf Cederschiöld and Elsa Wilhelmina Borg. Together they had seven children, although two of their daughters died before Maria Cederschiöld was born, and another two sons died at an early age. Out of all the children only the eldest son Gustaf would go on to start his own family and have children. Maria Cederschiöld never married.
Her father had a doctorate and worked as a high-level official within the state department. He died four years after Maria Cederschiöld was born, and his death was a serious financial setback for the family. Maria Cederschiöld still managed to gain a basic education and was one of the first four women in Sweden to gain her high school certificate as a private student on 19 May 1874. One of the others was Maria Cederschiöld’s friend Ellen Fries, whose memoirs Maria Cederschiöld later wrote. It was expected that Maria would enter a profession after finishing at school and thereby contribute to the family income. Her brother Gustaf, who was able to go to university and later became a famous linguist, arranged for Maria Cederschiöld to gain a position as governess for his parents-in-law, the Widegrens, who lived at Ingsberg in Nässjö. Subsequently, from 1877 to 1884, Maria Cederschiöld worked as a teacher at the Wallin school in Stockholm. She had attended the school herself some years earlier.
When Maria Cederschiöld had completed her employment as a teacher she entered a new profession and became a journalist. She was hired by Aftonbladet at the end of 1884. Her remit was wide-ranging. She reviewed fiction and she wrote articles on foreign affairs. It was not long before she became the chief editor of the foreign office at the paper, a position that had not been held by a woman before. Despite the fact that this made her a pioneer Maria Cederschiöld was not keen to emphasise it. She believed that general opinion at the turn of the century favoured women’s demands for gender equality. Thus she did not experience opposition to her promotion or the position she held. Maria Cederschiöld remained at Aftonbladet until her retirement in 1921. Her job there was not affected by the paper’s change in political alignment from liberal to conservative.
In addition to editorial work Maria Cederschiöld was also a driving force within women’s political issues. She was an active member of Svenska Kvinnors Nationalförbund, which Ellen Fries had set up. The association served as an umbrella organisation for all Swedish women’s associations and formed the Swedish branch of the International Council of Women. Maria Cederschiöld was its representative at several international congresses. For a time Maria Cederschiöld served as secretary of Föreningen för gift kvinnas äganderätt (an association for the right of married women to ownership), which was the first Swedish women’s legal rights organisation, and as such she authored a minor work on the legal position of married women within the family and wider society. She was involved with the journal Idun and frequently wrote articles on women’s rights in it, as well as in the journals Hertha and Dagny. She wrote several books, including one on Lars Johan Hierta and another on Ellen Fries, which was based on Ellen Fries’ correspondence with her parents from her time as a student.
Maria Cederschiöld had received Ellen Fries’ letters and diaries from Ellen’s mother, presumably in the knowledge that she would write about them. None of the letters have survived and only a small number of the diaries still exist. In the 1950s one of Maria Cederschiöld’s relatives handed over what was left of Ellen Fries’ diaries to Kvinnohistoriska samlingarna (now KvinnSam) at Gothenburg University Library, where they remain to this day.
Maria Cederschiöld was actively involved in the political and social issues of the day. She was an active member of the Fredrika Bremer association and, similarly to other socially active women, she made philanthropic contributions to the likes of Föreningen för skjukvård i fattiga hem (an association for healthcare for the poor) and to Klara församlings arbets- och skyddsförening, which contributed to caring for the poor of the Klara parish. She was a member of the Swedish Publicists' Association from 1911 onwards.
Maria Cederschiöld was a well-travelled woman, particularly in connection with her international activism on behalf of women’s political rights. She made various trips to countries such as France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belgium.
Maria Cederschiöld died in 1935 and is buried at the Norra cemetery in Solna.