Ulla Tillander was a minister of education, a parliamentarian, a member of the Centre Party executive, a UN delegate, and a teacher.
Ulla Tillander was brought up in Gothenburg. Her parents were Otto Olsson, a crane operator at Götaverken in Gothenburg, and Alma Justina Hagberg and she had two older sisters. Ulla Tillander first met Jan Tillander, the man she would go on to marry, at Sunday School and again later when she was training to become a teacher in Gothenburg. They married in 1954, settled in Malmö, and had a family numbering four sons.
Ulla Tillander gained her qualifications as a special subjects’ teacher in Lund in 1964. She then worked as a high school teacher at Augustenborgsskolan in Malmö, where she specialised in Swedish and English. She also became a member of the Centre Party at this time and caught the attention of Gustaf Lannegren, a municipal councillor. Ulla Tillander was elected onto the hospital board as a municipal representative in 1968 and subsequently elected onto the municipal council in Malmö in 1971.
It was the 1950s and 1960s housing expansion experienced within the area where Ulla Tillander had grown up which awoke her interest in politics and social impact. She had a burning interest in everything to do with education, primarily, but also in family-related issues as well as church matters. Social welfare benefits and family policies were important frontline matters to her. However, she came to focus her energies in the educational domain during her time as a parliamentarian. She was elected into parliament in 1973, and served as minister of education from 1981–1982. She championed the idea that schools should be accessible to children from every social background and should offer a free space in which children could develop according to their own talents in an equal environment. Further, Ulla Tillander was also a pioneer in allowing the establishment of private schools and private pre-schools.
From 1971–1976 Ulla Tillander was a member of the Malmö church council. She made a notable impact on the council, particularly when she voted against a motion regarding funeral-free Saturdays. From 1977–1984 she served as deputy chair of the Malmöhus county CKF section (Centerns kvinnoförbund, the Centre Party women’s association). CKF played a major role in Ulla Tillander’s life, not only politically but also in terms of her career and socially. She held several committee positions on national agencies as well as in insurance companies and the Swedish Church. Her engagement in the church included being a member of and chairing the Svenska kyrkan i utlandet (SKUT) (Swedish Church abroad) organisation. She also served as a UN delegate and was one of the first to dare to criticise genital mutilation within the framework of the UN. During one particular UN meeting she gave a speech on genital mutilation in African countries. She has been described as brave and an extremely talented orator.
Ulla Tillander was a dedicated politician and dedicated to the positions she held. She wrote 410 of her own motions, 47 interpellations, 40 questions, and 103 interventions. In recognition of her significant engagement and political contributions in 1994 she was awarded the highest merit possible from the Centre Party, the Barmstorp plaque. She resigned as a parliamentarian that same year and died just a few weeks later from cancer of the colon.