Valborg Lundgren was one of Sweden’s earliest professional female lawyers.
Valborg Lundgren was born in Stockholm in 1913. She and her sister were brought up by their parents, Erik Lundgren, a construction contractor, and Elisabeth Lundgren, née Peterzén. Valborg Lundgren’s father encouraged his daughters to study from an early age as he believed that girls should have the same opportunities as boys in gaining an education. He was one of the first people within the construction industry to allow female architecture students to secretly do some bricklaying at his work sites when the usual male workers were away. This allowed these women to gain practical experience. Valborg Lundgren’s father was also politically active and he was an admirer of Hjalmar Branting. He often discussed political and social issues with his daughters.
Valborg Lundgren’s father encouraged her to continue her education which she did by enrolling at Stockholm college in the 1930s. Her subject of choice was law, which choice she could only explain by declaring that she was interested in people, in problem-solving, and in social matters, and that she thought it was an extremely fun subject. During her professional life she often referred to the satisfaction she gained from working as a legal practitioner.
Valborg Lundgren gained her Bachelor of Laws degree in 1938 and then began her first legal job as a notary at Stockholms rådhusrätt, where she served from 1938–1942. She then found employment as an assistant legal practitioner at Mathilda Staël von Holstein’s lawyer’s agency. Matilda Staël von Holstein was a true pioneer among female legal practitioners. She was only the second woman to be voted into the Swedish Bar Association as a member. Valborg Lundgren herself became a member of the association in 1943. Three years later she took over Matilda Staël von Holstein’s legal office following her predecessor’s retirement.
Valborg Lundgren never married. She dedicated herself whole-heartedly to her legal work. Initially she focused on family law and criminal law, rapidly specialising in divorce and everyday law. She thrived in the role of defense lawyer and a colleague described her thus: “She is not just a lion in court but indeed an irritated lioness who will defend her young to the end”. Valborg Lundgren served as a lawyer in many notable criminal court cases during the 1900s. One of these was the Kejne affair of the 1950s in which she represented pastor Karl Erik Kejne. She also served in several cases involving espionage which meant that she was on the receiving end of several death threats. Valborg Lundgren was considered to be one of the best defence lawyers of the day when it came to criminal cases. She was recognised as a great legal authority and enjoyed the esteem of her legal colleagues and of judges: Valborg Lundgren was “a career woman who was rightly admired by both her male and her female colleagues”.
Valborg Lundgren held a large number of responsible positions throughout her life. She served on government inquiries, held a range of posts on various boards, and she was a member of both government and municipal agencies. The organisations she was involved in include: Anstaltsnämnden för Långholmen och Österåker, Sakrevisionen, Riksrevisionsverket och Hyresnämnden in Stockholm. Politically speaking she was connected to the Liberal People’s Party.
Valborg Lundgren was also an active member of several women’s organisations, including Akademiskt bildade kvinnors förening (ABKF, now Kvinnliga Akademikers Förening, KAF) and Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet. Valborg Lundgren commented on these types of organisations in an interview published in the Expressen newspaper in 1972: “I would like to get rid of all women’s associations, it’s a wretched state of affairs that they are needed. However, they remain necessary. For as long as women have a strong need to connect with other women in order to be able to discuss their problems.”
Valborg Lundgren frequently engaged in public debates throughout her professional career. The subject matter was usually of a juridical nature, in particular the issue of youth crime in which she campaigned for improved cooperation between home and school. Valborg Lundgren was also actively anti-Nazi, against anti-Semitism, and against xenophobia. She was frequently asked to give talks and regularly appeared as a contributor in both the daily press and in journals, including Hertha.
Valborg Lundgren often appeared on the radio and on TV. Her radio contributions ranged from music programmes and discussing legal matters to giving lectures on subjects such as Georg Sand. In the early 1970s she appeared on televised criminal trial shows which comprised both dramatised trials and debates. Valborg Lundgren played the part of defense lawyer in the episode entitled “Målet gäller abort” (the case concerns abortion) and she expressed her personal opinion on the matter. She championed free abortion and believed that it was every woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.
Valborg Lundgren enjoyed a wide social circle in Stockholm which included a lot of other professional women. Her other leisure activities included stamp-collecting, reading, driving, swimming, long-distance skiing and hill-climbing. She returned to studying again after retiring, applying herself to English and the history of music.
Valborg Lundgren died in 1992. She is buried in the family grave at Norra begravningsplatsen (the Northern cemetery) in Solna.