Valborg Innamaa was an influential merchant in Åbo who was active during the second half of the sixteenth century. Following the death of her first husband she ran the Innamaa merchant house for nearly 40 years.
Valborg Innamaa became a widow in 1563. Her husband, Henrik Innamaa, had been one of the purveyors to the court suppliers for Duke Johan. Henrik died at the time when the troops of the newly crowned King Erik XIV invaded the town of Åbo and its castle. In addition to losing her husband Valborg Innamaa had several properties stolen by the royal troops, along with several of the ships she owned and other valuable belongings. For a time even her own home was confiscated. Valborg Innamaa’s inventory of stolen property and personal items, later published in 1912 in Bidrag till Finlands historia IV, includes 150 barrels of rye, victuals, iron, gilded and silver-plated items, along with valuable textiles, amongst other things.
Valborg Innamaa survived these hardships and continued trading. By the 1560s she was already supplying victuals and iron for Crown use. King Erik XIV confirmed that her confiscated and stolen goods would be replaced. Valborg Innamaa’s working relationship with the Crown deepened following the king’s dethronement and succession by the new king Johan III in 1568. During the ensuing years of war she supplied textiles for King Johan III’s military needs and financed his lengthy war with Russia. The Crown awarded Valborg Innamaa many farms as surety for the debts it owed her. Further, she was also given tax-relief for twelve farms she already owned outside of Åbo.
In this period it was relatively common for a widow to run a merchant’s business for a time following her husband’s death. Most widows remarried after a while and then allowed their new husband to take over the business. However, Valborg Innamaa carried on running her own trade business despite marrying another two times. She defended her own interests herself at council meetings and in court. One of her letters to the king seems to imply that she believed herself to be more astute and hard-nosed than her third husband when it came to business matters and thus she was better suited to run the business. Just like her male counterparts she often fell into disputes with not just other burghers in the town but also with other local noblemen. When Valborg Innamaa then petitioned the king for support she received it.
During Valborg Innamaa’s lifetime the Innamaa trading business formed close overseas connections as well as ties to towns and markets in the kingdom. Her merchant ships sailed to German ports carrying butter, animal hides and furs of various types, fish, lard, tar, and horses. These ships then returned bearing textiles, salt, weapons, wine, and spices. According to the 1571 accounts listing that year’s ‘silverskatt’ (tax paid in silver) Valborg Innamaa was the wealthiest inhabitant of Åbo town.
Valborg Innamaa had two daughters. On her death, circa 1602, the merchant business was taken over by her nephew, Bertil Innamaa.