Ruth Hamrin-Thorell was a journalist and a politician of Folkpartiet (the Swedish People’s Party). She used both spheres of influence to advocate for increased social activism among women and to generally improve conditions for women.
Ruth Hamrin-Thorell was the second child of seven. Her father, Felix Hamrin, was a free-minded liberal parliamentarian and a minister and regional governor in Jönköping county. His wife, Lizzi, was of Scottish descent and expressed her social commitment in her local political activism on behalf of the free-minded liberals. Ruth Hamrin-Thorell was not the only one in her family who became living proof of the importance of a free-minded upbringing: one of her brothers, one of her cousins and a brother-in-law all became members of parliament for Folkpartiet, which evolved from the merger of the free-minded liberals with the liberals in 1934.
Ruth Hamrin-Thorell graduated from school in Eksjö in 1923. In her hometown of Jönköping only boys could attend college. After a year at Stockholm College (now Stockholm University) she embarked on what became her career as a journalist by working at the free-minded Västerbottens-Kuriren in Umeå. There she met the man who became her husband, forester Erik Thorell. They moved to Uppsala in the early 1930s when their eldest son Mac-Eric was only two years old. In Uppsala their family expanded with the arrivals of another son, Svante, in 1935 and a daughter, Malin, in 1942.
Ruth Hamrin-Thorell left her post at Västerbottens-Kuriren in 1925 and went on to work at the journal Tidevarvet, which had been founded by Fogelstadsgruppen in order to support the political programme developed by Frisinnade kvinnor riksförbund (the free-minded liberal women’s national association). From the early 1930s until 1963 Ruth Hamrin-Thorell worked at the weekly journal Idun which, like Tidevarvet, was an early promoter of female emancipation. Elin Wägner was Ruth Hamrin-Thorell’s boss at Idun. The two had met when Ruth was a reporter for Västerbottens-Kuriren and they remained friends for life.
In her political career Ruth Hamrin-Thorell became chair of the Folkpartiet kvinnoförbund (the People’s Party Women’s Association) in 1946, which also placed her in Folkpartiet’s administration. She remained chair of the women’s association until 1950 and was active in the administration until 1970. When she finally left the administration she also gave up her position as parliamentary member for Folkpartiet, which she had held since 1955.
Ruth Hamrin-Thorell’s journalism covered everyday issues. Supported by her personal experiences she used her journalism as well as her political activism to strengthen the position of women in society. She believed it was particularly important for women to be politically active in the “the areas of life which are their natural spheres of interest, namely those related to the home and childcare”. As a parliamentary member she wrote 200 own motions. She applied for an increased subvention to Hemmens Forskningsinstitut (a research institute on housework) and criticised the excessively high prices of the brochures and books they published. She believed that a massive educational campaign was needed for this information to reach consumers. For support with her own housework Ruth Hamrin-Thorell employed domestic helpers and sometimes trainees from the vocational school for home economics. Ruth Hamrin-Thorell was a board member of the school and departing students were presented with her hopes that they would be able to raise the status and social perception of housework. She believed that science and technology would open new worlds in their future workplaces.
Ruth Hamrin-Thorell’s reported on the general situation of women and their need for vocational training in post-war Germany. In 1950 she went “behind the façade” and reported on the German refugee camps. She presented a revealing account of apathy and discouragement in an environment where 80-90% were unemployed. Idun sent out an appeal for donations to its readers in conjunction with Ruth Hamrin-Thorell’s article, asking people to “provide German girls with an Idun home”. This effort, in collaboration with Save the Children, resulted in the establishment of a home to house 50 female apprentices. The home, located in Lübeck, was formally opened in September 1953.
Ruth Hamrin-Thorell believed that modernization would open up new opportunities for women. Research and technological innovations would lead to the professionalization of household-related careers. The education of women would lead to rises in their wages and their status. Professionalization would also enable housewives to use their particular skills to serve society.
Ruth Hamrin-Thorell died in Uppsala in 1991.