Alina Jägerstedt was a tobacco worker, a union activist and helped to set up the Social Democratic Workers’ Party.
Alina Jägerstedt was born in 1858 as a member of Stockholm’s Katarina parish. Her father, Constable Anders Johan Jägerstedt, had died before she was born. She grew up in an economically deprived home with her mother, the seamstress Johanna Christina. She had two elder brothers, Karl Johan and Frans Oscar. In 1862 the family gained a new member named Nils Johan, although his father does not appear to have stayed with the family for any length of time. A few years later the two older brothers were sent to Allmänna Barnhuset (a children’s home) while the youngest brother was boarded out to a farm in Uppland.
At the age of twelve Alina Jägerstedt began to work at a tobacco factory, presumably with simpler production tasks. Five years later she became a cigar roller, which was a relatively highly qualified and well-paid job. She kept this job for the majority of her working life. The majority of tobacco workers were employed in cigar production and women formed a significant and growing part of this workforce. It was manual labour which was often undertaken in larger factories. In 1884 Alina Jägerstedt was hired by one of these factories, Fick & Co in Östermalm in Stockholm.
Her mother, who had spent some time as an inmate of Grubbens försörjningsinrättning (a workhouse), moved back in with Alina Jägerstedt in 1877. Their shared household expanded in 1878 to include Alina’s brother Karl Johan and in 1881 Alina Jägerstedt had a daughter called Ester. She too, at the age of thirteen, began to work at the tobacco factory and she too became an employee of Fick & Co.
The tobacco workers quickly formed a trade union. When Skandinaviska Tobaksarbetarförbundet (the Scandinavian tobacco workers’ association) was founded in Stockholm in 1884 Aline Jägerstedt was one of its members. The early years of the association – along with Alina Jägerstedt’s possible role in it – remain a mystery due to the loss of the association’s records. Retrospective information from Morgonbris indicates that she at one point was the deputy chair of the association. There is confirmed evidence for her presence as a member of the board during the late 1890s and early 1900s. She was one of three association representatives who were sent to the constituted congress of the Swedish Social Democratic Workers’ Party in 1889. At the congress the three Stockholm tobacco workers highlighted the issue of attracting women to become members of the party. In conjunction with the party congress a preliminary meeting was also held to establish a national association for tobacco workers, and this was formally implemented later that year.
The trade union was Alina Jägerstedt’s prime sphere of activity although she also became a member of Stockholms allmänna kvinnoklubb (Stockholm’s Public Women's Club) when it was founded in 1892. She enjoyed strong internal support from the tobacco workers as is evidenced by her 1890 election as representative at the northern party district’s first conference, and by her appointment in 1896 to head the financial committee, which was responsible for funding support for those engaged in a major lockout in the tobacco industry. In 1906 she was elected onto the board of the municipal employment office and, according to Signe Svensson in Morgonbris, at the time she was “certainly the first female worker who held a municipal rank”. Her journey as an active tobacco worker trade unionist came to an end, however, upon the establishment of the Svenska Tobaksmonopolet (the Swedish tobacco monopoly) in 1915. During the final years of her life Alina Jägerstedt ran a tobacco shop in Stockholm with her daughter.
Alina Jägerstedt left no personal archive, and hence little is known of her personal life or views. Her behaviour at various congresses and other meetings imply that she was a realist and pragmatist. She was, for example, someone who returned to work relatively quickly after the mass strike of 1909. Her activism seems to have mainly been expressed with in the confines of practical association work. Her membership in the trade union movement gave it stability and continuity at a time when the movement was marked by uncertainty and a rapid membership turnover.
Alina Jägerstedt died in 1919.