Ulrika Fredrika Bremer was the widow of a merchant trader who became an important shipowner and industrialist. She was also the grandmother of the author Fredrika Bremer.
Ulrika Fredrika Bremer’s parents both belonged to families from Åbo, Finland. Her mother, Hedvig Magdalena Wittforth, was the daughter of the merchant Gustaf Adolf Wittforth. Her father, Eric Gustaf Salonius, had been born in Letala as the son of a parson. He had moved to Åbo in 1712 in order to study law and had become an advisory assistant at the royal court of appeal in Åbo.
In 1767 Ulrika Fredrika Bremer married Jacob Bremer, who had been widowed the previous year. Jacob Bremer was one of the leading merchant traders of Åbo and also the town’s most important shipowner. His business portfolio was diverse. Jacob Bremer was a part owner in Åbo sugar factory, in the two tobacco factories in the town, in a sail manufacturer, in the Järvenoja paper mill, in the Åvik glassworks, in the Kuppi brickworks, in the Koski and Luvia saw mills, as well as in the Swedish East India Company. Furthermore, he owned business premises and several estates, tax-free plots, and “rusthåll”, which implied that he supplied horses and riders to the crown for military service in exchange for tax relief.
Ulrika Fredrika Bremer’s marriage to Jacob lasted 18 years. She was only 39 years old when she was widowed in 1785. At that point she took over running his businesses, which she ran until her death in 1798. She was aided by Jacob Bremer’s sons from his first marriage, Josef and Reinhold Bremer, and by her own son Carl Fredrik Bremer. It is probable that Ulrika Fredrika Bremer ran the business because her stepsons appeared to be less suited to the task. Josef fell into economic straits and eventually suffered from mental troubles. Reinhold remained unmarried. Ulrika Fredrika Bremer’s own son Carl Fredrik spent four years studying in Hamburg and did not show any interest in running a business either.
Åbo sugar factory had been managed by the estate from 1785 onwards but in 1790 Ulrika Fredrika Bremer took on sole responsibility for the factory. She also took over her late husband’s numerous shipping commitments. Jacob Bremer’s shipping activities had been extremely lucrative as he had been a part owner in the largest ships engaged in foreign trade. During his lifetime he had been engaged in 21 different shipping companies. Ulrika Fredrika Bremer actively maintained her late husband’s shipping business and her role as ship owner included responsibility for everything from furnishing the ships, to sharing out the profits, and maintaining correspondence.
Ulrika Fredrika Bremer inherited her husband’s share in Åvik glassworks. In 1792 the inheritors of the other owner, Jakob Reinhold Depong, sold their share to Ulrika Fredrika’s son Carl Fredrik Bremer. In 1797 he bought his mother’s share. Ulrika Fredrika Bremer had also inherited a share in the paper mill at Järvenoja from her husband, and so she ran that business for a few years in the early 1790s.
The success of the Bremer family enterprise continued under Ulrika Fredrika Bremer’s leadership. Henrik Gabriel Porthan, professor at Kungliga Akademien of Åbo, was a great admirer of hers. He wrote a letter to his colleague Matias Lagus in December 1798 in which he recounted that after Ulrika Fredrika Bremer’s death the value of the estate had increased to the sum of 14 to 15 barrels of gold, which was the equivalent of one and a half million silver daler.
Ulrika Fredrika Bremer’s only son, Carl Fredrik Bremer, took over running the business after his mother’s death, but gave it up only a few years later. He moved to Stockholm in 1804, thereby breaking the family connection with Åbo. He brought his daughter Fredrika Bremer, who had been born in 1801, with him and she went on to become one of Sweden’s most celebrated authors of all time.
Ulrika Fredrika Bremer died in Åbo in 1798.