Märta Stenbeck was a prominent figure of the Swedish ‘lotta’ (women’s voluntary defence corps) movement, particularly when she became head of the national corps.
Märta Stenbeck was born in Stockholm in 1895. She was the first child of Ebba and Henning Kinberg. In 1915 she married Nils Stenbeck. They had three children together: Ingrid, Hjalmar, and Henning.
According to Märta Stenbeck she became a ‘lotta’ in 1928. When she and her family moved to Östersund in the late 1930s she sought out the local ‘lotta’ activists. During the 1941–1945 period she served as chair of the Jämtland ‘lotta’ association. In 1945 she moved back to Stockholm and at that point she was appointed as head of the national ‘lotta’ corps following the departure of Maja Schmidt.
One of Märta Stenbeck’s main duties during her first period as head of the national ‘lotta’ corps was to convince not just her own members but also the public that the ‘lotta’ corps was still needed. The ‘lotta’ corps had expanded during the period of the Second World War to become one of the largest women’s organisations in Sweden, with a membership numbering over 110,000. The end of the war did not, however, mean that the military’s need for the voluntary women’s defence corps suddenly ceased. In order to staunch a major loss of members Märta Stenbeck spent a lot of her time disseminating information about the ‘lotta’ corps’ continuing role within the military.
Indeed, the ‘lotta’ movement sought to extend and expand the training opportunities they offered with Märta Stenbeck at the helm. This included encouraging the various ‘lotta’ groups to cooperate with local educational groups whilst the Sveriges lottakårers studieförbund (Swedish ‘lotta’ corps study association) was set up on a national level with Märta Stenbeck as its chair. Further, a ‘lotta’ training centre was set up for members at Älvkarleö in Uppland and the organisation’s core courses were held there.
Märta Stenbeck was particularly involved with the ‘lotta’ corps’ humanitarian work and she sought to increase and expand these efforts. The ‘lotta’ corps’ histories describe Märta Stenbeck’s period in charge of the organisation as “the humanitarian epoch” of the movement. Nevertheless, some opposition arose in the face of these developments. For example, Märta Stenbeck’s proposal to create humanitarian sections within the corps was rejected in favour of retaining military tasks as the focus of ‘lotta’ activities.
In 1959 Märta Stenbeck decided to step down from her post as head of the national ‘lotta’ corps after 14 years in service. She was succeeded by  (Ingrid Norlander).
Märta Stenbeck died in 1977. She is buried at the Norra cemetery in Solna.