Bertha Nordenson made major contributions on behalf of women’s rights and suffrage as a member of Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet (association) and Svenska Kvinnors Nationalförbund (national women’s association of Sweden), as well as in other spheres.
Bertha Nordenson was born in London in 1857. Her father, Pontus Kleman, worked in the iron and timber industries. Her mother, Bertha Amalia Hierta, was one of Lars Johan Hierta’s and Vilhelmina Fröding’s five daughters. Bertha Nordenson received a thorough international education which included languages. She also frequently visited her maternal grandparents and other relatives in Sweden.
In 1882 Bertha Nordenson married Erik Nordenson. He was an opthalmologist whom she had probably met in Paris where he spent a few years studying. Erik Nordenson continued his research in Göttingen, where he and the family lived until 1887. They then returned to Sweden, and Stockholm in particular. Erik Nordenson was considered to be one of the most eminent opthalmologists in Sweden. The Nordenson couple had five children together.
Bertha Nordenson was 30 years old when she returned to Sweden. Her main occupations involved housekeeping, child-rearing, and managing the social life of the well-to-do family. However, just like her aunts and many other women in her situation, she was consumed by a sense of social responsibility. The Sweden she returned to was heavily engaged in discussions on and the struggle for women’s emancipation. She too became consumed with these matters. Her female relatives introduced her to a range of different societies and foundations and it was not long before she became an active member within them. Her aunt, Anna Hierta-Retzius, had set up the Föreningen för gift kvinnas äganderätt (society for married women’s rights to property ownership) along with Ellen Anckarsvärd. Bertha Nordenson became an elected board member of the society. When the society was incorporated into Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet (FBF) in 1896 Bertha Nordenson became a member of that association’s standing committee on laws working with issues regarding the legal position of women. Later she was elected as a member of the FBF board and as such she was one of the signatories to the petition for female suffrage which was handed over to the king in 1899.
Ellen Kleman, Bertha Nordenson’s cousin, was also a member of the FBF. She was also editor of the Dagny and Hertha journals. The campaign for female suffrage was well-served by the FBF, and by Landsföreningen för kvinnans politiska rösträtt (LKPR) (national association for women’s suffrage) within which Bertha Nordenson was also active. She therefore stood as one of the responsible organisers for the Sixth World Congress for women’s suffrage in 1911 in Stockholm. She was equally engaged in the Svenska Kvinnors Nationalförbund, where she served as a member of the board during the 1910s and was elected chair in 1921. She had to resign from the post in 1927, however, due to illness.
Bertha Nordenson also made a significant contributions within Föreningen för sjukvård i fattiga hem (society for home medical care for the poor). This society had been set up in 1888 by another of her aunts, namely Ebba Lind af Hageby. The society collected money and organised medical care for those who could not afford it or were unable to get to a hospital for treatment. This enterprise subsequently spread throughout Stockholm. Bertha Nordenson took on the role of society chair for many years and was awarded the Illis quorum medal in recognition of her contribution.
Bertha Nordenson died in 1928. Ellen Kleman wrote in her obituary that Bertha Nordenson was a brilliant “assistant” due to her positive energy and unfailing belief in people. She carried out her aunts’ wishes far beyond their expectations and was one of the many women who despite not figuring in the headlines nevertheless did not give up on the fight for women’s rights.