Maria Zoéga worked as an entrepreneur in Landskrona and Helsingborg at the end of the 1800s. She ran Zoéga Coffee, a successful firm in Helsingborg since 1886. She now has a brand of coffee named after her: Maria Zoéga.
Maria Zoéga was born in 1860 as Maria Tufvesdotter Thunell in Källna outside Klippan in Skåne. She had at least nine siblings. Their mother’s name was Bengta Persdotter and their father was Tufve Jonsson. In 1869, when Maria Zoéga was only nine years old, Tufve Jonsson died. A few years later, their mother remarried, this time Paul Olsson, an official in Bolestad.
In the 1880s, Maria Zoéga like many others moved from the country into one of the local towns. In her case it was Landskrona. She was then 23 years old. In Landskrona, she opened a photo atelier, Maria Thunell’s atelier. Her sister Anna Thunell also worked there and she eventually took over the business.
In 1880, a few years before Maria Zoéga’s move to Landskrona, Carlos Zoéga had returned from Brazil to Sweden and Landskrona with his wife Richarda Mulina de Barras. They opened a coffee business in Landskrona together, in 1881. They probably brought their knowledge about coffee with them from Brazil. Richarda Mulina de Barras died only a couple of years after they had settled in Landskrona.
Carlos and Maria Zoéga were married in August 1885. As a married woman, Maria Zoéga was no longer an independent adult, and if possible it was expected that women would stop working or give up their businesses after marriage. However, visiting cards have been preserved with Maria Zoéga’s atelier name also from the period after her marriage. On most of them she is named as Maria Thunell. However, on certain portraits for visiting cards stands the name Maria Zoéga. She thus continued her photographic enterprise even after her marriage.
In 1886, Carlos and Maria Zoéga as well as their daughter Klara Maria moved to Helsingborg. They took their coffee business with them and together they opened a coffee merchant’s shop in Kullagatan. Carlos Zoéga was named in the daily press as sole owner of the enterprise. However, he died early, in 1888, and thus only ran the business in Helsingborg for two years. Maria Zoéga was now a widow, and thus once again an independent adult. Unmarried mothers and widows were vulnerable groups around the turn of the century 1900. As a lone parent, shouldering the burden of financial support was hard. When her husband died, Maria Zoéga was only 28 years old, and pregnant with her second child. In 1888, Maria Zoéga stood alone with a relatively recently started business and two small children. The younger child, Carl Thure, died tragically when he was only one month old. Under these circumstances, Maria Zoéga nonetheless continued developing the business. She walked round and sold her coffee to cafés, restaurants and shops all over the town. She also received several offers to buy her business.
In 1890, after two years as sole entrepreneur and widow, she remarried, this time a man with experience from the confectionary branch, Johan Svensson. Johan took the surname Zoéga after the marriage, which probably means that Maria Zoéga had succeeded in establishing her business so well that it was worth keeping the name and developing it as a family business. It was quite simply worth changing one’s surname for.
Again, as a married woman, Maria Zoéga took a background role and Johan Zoéga represented the firm in public. Together they had two sons, William and Rudolf. Rudolf was eventually to take over the business after his father’s death. Maria Zoéga took charge instead of the properties that the family had purchased and had built. In their house in Drottninggatan, the Zoéga café and shop are still to be seen. The firm built its identity on Carlos Zoéga with Johan and Rudolf Zoéga as its new owners. In 1940, Maria Zoéga died and her role in the firm’s history seemed to be completely forgotten. In 2018 however, this situation was redressed and the firm’s history was rewritten to give her due credit. Also, the firm ran the campaign ”Sorry Maria” in which they launched a new variety of coffee – Maria Zoéga.
Maria Zoéga lies buried in Pålsjö Cemetery in Helsingborg.