Maria Lindeberg was the first Swedish woman to publish a travelogue. Her reports from homes and on everyday lives as well as her discussion of women’s issues were in many ways precursors of Fredrika Bremer’s Hemmen i den nya verlden, 1853.
Maria Lindeberg was the daughter of Margaretha Rebrén and Anders Crispin Lindeberg. Her father was an accountant for the state railway in Stockholm. The relatively well-off family lived on the corner of Skeppargatan and Riddargatan in Stockholm. Maria Lindeberg’s brother, the journalist, theatre man and author Anders Lindeberg, took over the running of the parental home from his father. In the 1840s Maria Lindeberg acquired the house from her brother, who had fallen into economic straits when Stockholm’s Nya teatern went bankrupt. Anders Lindeberg remained a tenant on the top floor of the house and the garden seems to have served as one of the gathering points of the literary and political elite of Stockholm during the 1830s and 1840s. According to certain sources Maria Lindeberg lived further uptown for some time, but towards the end of her life she is registered at that address along with her niece, the artist and xylographer Andreetta Lindeberg.
Maria Lindeberg spent the years 1825-1826 travelling to Paris. She kept a travelogue which was published in Stockholmsposten. Not only did her brother Anders own this paper from 1821 to 1833 but he was also its editor-in-chief. Maria Lindeberg’s travelogue, along with other letters she had written, was published as a book in 1827. It was released anonymously, entitled Bref från Paris av et resande Svenskt fruntimmer.
The travelogues are written to a friend but not in the style typical of private correspondence. Maria Lindeberg consistently highlights that she is a woman. This excuses the lack of learned and social commentary which was the norm for travelogues written by men. Meanwhile she stresses that what she has to say is in itself of greater interest than what a man would convey. The accounts are, however, hardly as distant from social commentary and political observations as Maria Lindeberg implies. She includes reports from newspapers, street life and public shows. The travelogues include detailed accounts of the Parisian bourgeoisie, their homes and everyday lives, and lively discussions on issues of gender equality. It was a “restored Paris” that she visited, and she notes with great sadness that several of the reforms which had been introduced during the French revolution had been abandoned in favour of more conservative laws.
The increasing conservatism does not – according to Maria Lindeberg – seem to affect the position of French women in wider society. In contrast to Swedish women, they appear to have the right to practise various trades, dress in men’s apparel if they so wish, move freely on the streets and in reading salons. Further, they were not only entitled to but were even encouraged to obtain a classical education if they so desired. In brief, Maria Lindeberg believed that French women had much more freedom than their Swedish counterparts to live their lives as they wished. Although this is largely a generalised view the significance lies in Maria Lindeberg’s use of her travelogue to discuss women’s issues just as they were becoming current in Sweden too.
The travelogue also testifies to her great interest in, and familiarity with, the theatre and drama. She summarises many theatrical productions of various types – there are reports from tragedies at Comédie française as well as from simpler productions and street theatre. Dramatic intrigues, scenography, costumes, direction and acting talents are all discussed in detail.
As a result of Anders Lindeberg being charged with lese-majesty in 1835 Maria Lindeberg edited a 1000-page edition of his Samlade arbeten and organised a very successful subscription to the edition, on behalf of Anders Lindeberg’s children.
Maria Lindeberg also worked as a translator. She translated two French plays, Brudgummen and Theobald eller flyktingen från Ryssland, which were performed at her brother’s Nya teater in its first season in the autumn of 1842.
She also translated a French cookbook, Den fullständige konditorn, eller grundelig undervisning i konsten att tillaga allahanda konfektyrer, pastejer, glasser, varma och kalla drycker, att sylta och glassera frukt, pussera i vax, distillera vatten, göra och koka choklad, m.m., 1841. She is believed to be the author of a satirical New Year’s greeting from 1840 entitled Nyårs-önskningar för 1841 till hvar och en.
Maria Lindeberg died in 1861.