Valborg Svensson was a political agitator and one of only a few women active in the Communist Party of Sweden during the first half of the twentieth century.
Valborg Svensson was born in Huskvarna in 1903. Her father was a foundryman who worked at Husqvarna arms factory. Valborg Svensson’s mother died when she was seven years old. Her father remarried and as the new family expanded Valborg Svensson moved in as a foster child with her teacher who lived in the countryside. She had already completed four years at the public school in Huskvarna by this point. When Valborg Svensson was 15 years old she moved to Jönköping, where she was initially employed as a housemaid in an officer’s family before being taken on as a maid for a different family. Her working conditions and her pay improved in her second job.
Valborg Svensson was first exposed to the communist movement when the Vänstersocialistiska (left socialist) women’s club organised a social dance at Huskvarna Folkets Hus. Her paternal uncle and his wife were both members of the party and Valborg Svensson was advised to join the youth association of the Communist Party. She spent a few years working as an ironing woman at a linen mill in Jönköping. It was hard and tiring labour and in an effort to improve her working conditions she attempted to set up a trade union. It was, however, a short-lived affair. Her own account of her early working years tells of personally experienced injustices, hard labour and an active young woman, who sold the Stormklockan paper and raised funds.
When Valborg Svensson was 25 years old she moved to Stockholm, where she once again found employment as a maid. She joined the Communist Party of Sweden (SKP) in 1928. She also organised housemaids by selling the newspaper Hemslavinnan (“home slave”) during kitchen coffee breaks. Valborg Svensson became part of the editorial committee for Arbetarkvinnornas tidning (AKT) when the paper was set up by the SKP in 1930. She resigned from her job as maid after two years’ service and then accepted an invitation to travel to Moscow in the Soviet Union in order to become trained as a political agitator. There she met the Norwegian communist Arvid G. Hansen, who was the organiser of the Scandinavian courses. They lived together in a platonic relationship during parts of the 1930s.
After Valborg Svensson returned to Stockholm in 1933 she was often engaged by SKP as an agitator. She became a person of interest to the internal security forces, who started keeping a personal file on her. Her long lecture tours in Norrland were noted as well as her public appearance on International Woman’s Day in 1933. 50 years later Valborg Svensson was described as a “woman’s day veteran” when she gave a radio interview on 8 March in which she described how she spoke out against fascism, the threat of war, and the economic crisis. Valborg Svensson also became elected onto the SKP central committee, served as an editor of AKT, edited women’s pages in Ny Dag, and fundraised for volunteers for Spain. Between the years of 1936 and 1938 she mostly lived in Bergen, Norway, together with Arvid G. Hansen.
Valborg Svensson worked assiduously to mobilise women and in 1934 she published two pamphlets: Arbetarkvinnor!: med vem röstar ni? and Arbetarkvinnorna inför ett nytt världskrig. In 1940 she released Ett allvarsord till kvinnorna! which was followed two years later by Ett ord till husmor. During the 1930s she organised specific activities for women, such as sewing circles and political solidarity work, which were open to non-party members.
From 1942 until 1962 Valborg Svensson was on the Stockholm city council as a representative of SKP. She was active in the child welfare authority, the social welfare authority, as well as the temperance committee. She was engaged in issues concerning playgrounds, financial support for the families of alcoholics, shorter working hours for mothers, and children’s homes for short-term care. During the Second World War Valborg Svensson became acquainted with Svenska Kvinnors Vänsterförbund (SKV, Swedish women’s left-wing association) through her work for the central aid committee for the children of Leningrad. AKT began to encourage fundraising and the sewing of children’s clothes in 1943. Within two years 177 local aid committees nationwide had raised 50,000 kroner and sewn around 20,000 items of children’s wear. Through this committee work Valborg Svensson met Ada Nilsson, a doctor and member of SKV.
Kvinnornas Demokratiska Världsförbund (KDV, Women's International Democratic Federation) was set up in Paris in 1945 in opposition to fascism and in support of peace as well as the rights of women and children. The following year SKV became aligned with KDV and several communists joined the left-wing association. The AKT paper folded in 1947, and SKV set up a new publication entitled Vi kvinnor i demokratiskt världsförbund. In the 1970s the name was changed to Vi Mänskor. Valborg Svensson sat on the editorial board in the 1950s and subsequently became the editor-in-chief, a position she retained for the rest of her life. She continued her solidarity work by raising money for the women and children of Vietnam. During the 1970s, Valborg Svensson contributed to the research work on the play Jösses flickor – befrielsen är nära, directed by Margareta Garpe and Suzanne Osten, by giving interviews and thereby contributing to material on women’s history for the play.
Valborg Svensson died in 1983, shortly after her eightieth birthday. She is buried at Skogskyrkogården in Gamla Enskede.