Maya Nymann was an educational reformer who, along with Eva Rodhe, developed special pedagogical methods for the education of children.
Maya Nymann was born 1849 in Götlunda in Västmanland county. Her father, Per Gustaf Nyman, was a mining engineer and a building contractor. Her mother, Jeana Nyman, was responsible for running the grain mill, the sawmill, and caring for the animals on the farm they leased from Baron Liljehorn. Maya Nymann had five siblings: three brothers and two sisters. Her sister Olivia died young, just two years old. Her remaining sister, Adota, became an educator and a teacher of natural sciences. She founded a women’s centre in Ljungskile, which served as a meeting place for women engaged in the domestic and international struggle for women’s suffrage. There women could both socialise and discuss contemporary matters. Maya Nymann’s brothers Olivio, Emil, and Hjalmar all emigrated and started new lives in the USA, where Olivio made a successful career within the field of polytechnology.
Maya Nymann was the first woman to attend the crafts school Nääs Slöjdlärarseminarium. There she received major inspiration to develop her handicraft models. She quickly developed an ambition to make learning and the exchange of knowledge more equitable.
In 1875, after undertaking a study tour through Europe, Maya Nymann began working as a teacher at the girls’ school Uddevalla högre elementarläroverk för flickor at which Eva Rodhe was the school principal. Together the two women sought to find a way to improve teaching methods, making them more reflective of their own beliefs with regard to learning processes.
Maya Nymann and Eva Rodhe both resigned from their respective posts at the girls’ school in 1878. They then went on a three-year study tour during which they lived in France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland, investigating those countries’ different school systems, the educational methods applied in the basic classes, and the variety of pedagogical approaches adopted. Upon their return to Sweden the two women set up the coeducational, practical learning-oriented Praktiska Arbetsskolan in Gothenburg, located at Karl Gustafsgatan 1B. The school catered for children from “Lilleklass”, which corresponded to preschool, right up to classes for twelve-year-olds. Eva Rodhe owned the school building and the teachers lived on site.
Maya Nymann developed teaching models that were inspired by her time at Nääs Slöjdseminarium. These handicrafts-based models were designed to allow the children in Lilleklassen to perfect their practical skills as well as their creative and oratory skills. This approach gained a lot of attention and was later applied in many schools. These teaching models, with associated pedagogical explanations, were published in several different pamphlets, later translated and disseminated throughout Europe and the USA. Maya Nymann and Eva Rodhe’s pedagogical theme, “The connecting link” or “The Eva Rodhe model series”, sought to change the current Swedish norms regarding teaching processes which prioritised pupils’ absorption of theoretical rather than practical skills. “The connecting link” claimed that all children, regardless of gender and social class, should have equal access to acquiring knowledge. This could happen by focusing on children’s needs for creativity and games. Eva Rodhe and Maya Nymann believed that by combining theoretical and practical approaches, children not only became more willing to learn but they also became better able to use the skills they were taught. Maya Nymann and Eva Rodhe’s motto, as expressed in their pedagogical writings, was “Read everything, try thousands of times”.
Maya Nymann and Eva Rodhe retired in 1904. Georg Leonard Forslind took over as principal of Praktiska Arbetsskolan. Even though the school was under new leadership, both Maya Nymann and Eva Rodhe carried on living in the accommodation located within the school building, right up until Eva Rodhe’s death in 1919. At that point Maya Nymann moved to an apartment which she shared with Hilda von Heijne on Södra vägen 11, also in Gothenburg. When Maya Nymann and Eva Rodhe retired they had had a summer cottage constructed in Ljungskile which they named Rodebo. They were neighbours there with Maya Nymann’s sister, Adota.
Maya Nymann wrote a lot throughout her lifetime: songs, poems, letters, prose and articles. Her desire to share her output with others meant that she often sent long letters to her friends, which included dramatised acts, songs, or poems directly tailored towards the recipients.
Maya Nymann died in Gothenburg on 3 March 1939.