Märta Tamm-Götlind was a writer, popular educator and ethnologist. She was also active in the women’s movement.
Märta Tamm-Götlind was born in 1888 and grew up at Tvetaberg’s Manor outside Södertälje, with four siblings and her parents Anna and Oscar Tamm. The forestry crisis of the 1890s contributed to Oscar Tamm’s having to sell Tvetaberg, since he was already in debt. The family moved to Stockholm in 1895, and there Oscar Tamm was appointed as domain curator for Stockholm County. Märta Tamm-Götlind was first taught at home by a governess but then continued on to study at the Åhlinska School where she matriculated in 1907. Among others, she had Lydia Wahlström as an inspiring teacher.
The Tamm sisters received a solid education. Hildegard, the oldest, became a piano teacher and landscape painter. Alfhild became a doctor and Ingeborg an office clerk. Alfhild Tamm was especially notable since she became the first woman doctor in Sweden to work at a mental hospital. She was also one of the first to study psychoanalysis with Freud. She specialised in child and youth psychiatry. She was continually in a feud with the authorities when it came to defending her right as a woman to practise her profession and make a career. Her sister’s heavy experiences strengthened Märta Tamm-Götlind’s interest in woman’s struggle for franchise.
Märta Tamm-Götlind qualified as an elementary teacher in 1909. That autumn, she enrolled at Stockholm College to study the history of literature for Karl Warburg. However, to be allowed to teach Swedish, she first required qualifications in Nordic languages, and that subject was not available at the new college. Märta Tamm-Götlind applied therefore to Uppsala University where she was enrolled in the spring term 1911. On 12–17 June 1911, an International Suffrage Congress was held in Stockholm. Marshalls were needed there, preferably students conversant with languages. Märta Tamm-Götlind had been in England on a language trip and was therefore able to apply. Along with about 20 other young women, Märta Tamm-Götlind was selected to be a functionary at the Congress, wearing her matriculation cap, a white dress and a wide blue-and-yellow marshal’s ribbon. At the head of the marshals’ parade, a standard was borne, with one word embroidered on it in English: ”Justice”.
It was a memorable experience for Märta Tamm-Götlind to be allowed to listen to the chief delegate for the United States’ delegation, Anna Howard Shaw, the day before the Congress. She was an ordained pastor in a branch of the Methodist Church and she preached in a packed-out Gustav Vasa Church at Odenplan in Stockholm. Märta Tamm-Götlind would thereafter during her whole life struggle for women’s right to be ordained as clergywomen in Sweden as well. As late as 1957, she published a book on women clergy around the globe. Märta Tamm-Götlind’s first book ever, that appeared in 1920, was about no other than Anna Howard Shaw. Her engagement for women clergy stretched over several decades and it is no surprise to anyone that Margit Sahlin, in 1960 one of Sweden’s three ordained clergywomen, wrote a letter of thanks to Märta Tamm-Götlind.
The International Congress in Stockholm ended with an excursion to Uppsala on 19 June 1911. The women gathered in the Botanical Garden and marched in a united troop with the Uppland Regimental Band at their head to Odinslund. After the great events in connection with the Suffrage Congress, Märta Tamm-Götlind returned to her studies of Nordic languages and gained her M.A. in 1914. She wrote her M.A. essay for Professor Adolf Noreen, who recommended it for publication in Ord & Bild. Under the heading ”Något om familjenamnen hos svenska romanhjältar” (The family names of Swedish fictional heroes) Märta Tamm-Götlind was able to see her first literary product printed in a prestige-filled publication.
During her studies of Nordic languages, she met Johan Götlind, a farmer’s son from the Western Swedish province of Västergötland. They married in January 1917 and in 1918 Johan Götlind gained his doctorate with the thesis Studier i västsvensk ordbildning.
Johan Götlind was closely bound to his roots in Västergötland, and he burned with passion for dialects and folklore. He called them “our spiritual monuments”. Through him, Märta Tamm-Götlind became involved in the emergence of the Dialect Archive in Uppsala.
Johan Götlind was appointed to the Dialect Archive in 1918 and in 1928 he started to build up the newly set-up folklore section. Via her husband’s work at the Dialect Archive, Märta Tamm-Götlind received her first impulse towards writing articles about cultural history. While her husband was advancing his academic career, Märta Tamm-Götlind bore two children, Erik and Gustav, at the beginning of the 1920s. Journalism, voluntary work in associations and research were however the vehicles of expression to which Märta Tamm-Götlind herself wished to give prominence as her mission. Her studies at Uppsala University carried her into the suffrage movement and thereby also the women’s movement. Märta Tamm-Götlind was the chairwoman of the Uppsala group of the International Women’s Association for Peace and Freedom for almost twenty years in 1948–1967.
When Märta Tamm-Götlind’s sons were growing up, stories for children were in demand. This resulted in a number of picture books and longer books published first and foremost by J. A. Lindblads Bokförlag in Uppsala. Several of Märta Tamm-Götlind’s children’s books stand out even today as sound and fresh creations. The picture book Nallas saga, that pretends to be a true story from the 1860s about a bear, appeared as early as 1926. The animal theme was further developed in Mormors och farfars djursagor from 1933. The picture book Djurfesten i storskogen from 1938 appears to be a modern fairy tale about goblins with a Santa Claus who travels in a flying machine. The longer books Olle och Gösta. Två små pojkars upptåg och äventyr from 1931 with the sequel Bytingar. Nya upptåg av Olle och Gösta in 1934.
Of special interest in relation to early industries are Berghagabarnen. Berättelse från Upplandsbygden och Lappmarken in 1937 and Barnen i bruksbygden. Berättelse från 1860-talet from 1942. Märta Tamm-Götlind’s final children’s book was Djuren som skrämde bort trollen from 1945. For this she gathered material from her husband’s book Saga, sägen och folkliv i Västergötland.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Märta Tamm-Götlind contributed articles sporadically to the women’s periodicals Idun, Hertha and Tidevarvet. The subjects mostly dealt with women’s issues. She started to travel around to housewives’ associations in the province of Uppland and gave lectures on cultural personalities like Fredrika Bremer and Jenny Lind. For many years, she wrote reports for the Upsala Nya Tidning from the housewives’ association meetings in Uppland and also wrote book reviews and short news items, often under the signature Tege.
With her roots in the liberal student generation, Märta Tamm-Götlind experienced the suffrage movement’s march to victory during the decade starting in 1910, and became a typical representative for the socially interested and involved persons in the women’s and peace movements. During several decades in the mid-1900s, she contributed to chiselling out the picture of the social life of early industrial communities in Uppland through her articles and lectures. Her impulses and ideas came from the folklore notes she had begun to make at the Dialect Archive in Uppsala when it opened in 1914, where her husband was working and she herself was allowed to carry out pilot studies. In this way, she appears to have been a popularising ethnologist of the old school with a bicycle and notebook as equipment for her journey.
As a writer, Märta Tamm-Götlind focused attention on the social and educational aspects of Uppsala’s history through a number of cultural articles founded on basic research, particularly on neglected social subjects like conditions for women and children. In Uppsala, she became a well-known personality in the activities of associations and in politics. She was engaged in the Uppsala Division of the International Women’s Association for Peace and Freedom (IKFF) and was its chairwoman for several decades as well as being for a time the chairwoman of the county division of the Liberal Women’s National Association (Frisinnade Kvinnornas Riksförbud).
The study of folklore was thus an important foundation for Märta Tamm-Götlind’s activities as a lecturer and writer. Admittedly, Uppsala was her home for most of her life, but excursions to the early industrial districts and the various local sections of the housewives’ movement meant that she came to spread her family and folklore knowledge to a wider public also in the form of lectures. Märta Tamm-Götlind thus became a popular educator in Uppland with a clear-cut profile during the 1900s. She was part of a cooperative popular education movement in which the written and spoken word was used as a tool for research and lectures.
In 1980, Märta Tamm-Götlind was made an honorary doctor at Uppsala University. The motivation emphasised her contributions to ethnological research in the form of manuscripts that constituted the foundations for lectures and newspaper articles.
Märta Tamm-Götlind died in Uppsala in 1982 at the age of 93. She is buried together with her husband in Göteve Cemetary in Västergötland.