Stina Fagerskog was an important figure within the Swedish health benefits movement during the early 1900s. She was also an important representative of the working-class women’s movement and a spokesperson for women’s financial security, health, and rights.
Stina Fagerskog was born in 1858. She grew up in a working-class family in Norra Råda parish in Värmland. She was the eldest of eight children. When she was 19 years old she began to work as a maid at Risberg estate and subsequently at Hagfors works. In 1881 she moved to Gothenburg where, according to the household survey records she continued to work as a maid until she married police constable Frans Richard Källgren in October 1888. Unfortunately he died not long afterwards, in May 1891, and then Stina Fagerskog began to provide for herself by working as a seamstress. Just like many other newcomers to the working class she often moved house. In July 1899 she remarried, to Axel Herman Fagerskog. She continue working as a seamstress even after remarrying.
In early 1898 Stina Fagerskog and Berta Vilhelmsson decided to set up a health benefits society for female seamstresses in Gothenburg, called Sömmerskornas sjuk- och begravningskassa (SSBK) (health and funeral benefits society for seamstresses). The fact that this group of workers was particularly vulnerable to poor health and financial difficulties motivated them. Stina Fagerskog became the first chair of the benefits society, and remained in post for 33 years. Initially the funds were very small and in the first year they signed up 21 seamstresses. Over the course of the following years Stina Fagerskog, in her capacity as chair, took the society from a minor women’s health benefits society to a very well-funded society which in the early 1930s had become one of Gothenburg’s largest health benefits society.
Whilst Stina Fagerskog served as chair the office for the society was located in her home and she devoted a lot of time and energy to the job. Her political awareness grew exponentially during her stint with SSBK. She was intensely involved in the health benefits movement and became a member of the well-known Gothenburg municipal central health benefits society from an early point. As a representative of SSBK she also attended the annual health benefits society congresses and courses. Her newly-gained knowledge would then be passed on to the members of the society through lectures given at monthly members’ meetings. Stina Fagerskog also became active in the suffragette movement and in 1902 was elected onto the board of Föreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (association for women’s suffrage) in Gothenburg.
SSBK, as the very first health benefits society, introduced maternity benefits in 1908 which gave married women the option of 14 days’ sickness benefit after giving birth. This was introduced partly to convince married women to remain as members and partly as a political matter of importance for working-class women. To Stina Fagerskog this was a core issue and, at health benefit society congresses, she always ensured that the issue of maternity benefits was included on the daily political agenda.
Stina Fagerskog died in December 1941 and lies at the Östra cemetery in Gothenburg.