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Brita Åkerman

1906-03-302006-08-01

Pioneering consumer guidence researcher, infleuncer of popular opinion

Brita Åkerman was a pioneer in consumer politics and research on women’s daily lives.

Brita Åkerman was born in 1906 on the family farm Molstaberg Manor, in Södertälje municipal district. Her maternal grandfather, Anders Petter Löfström, was a politician and through the sale of his own plots of land, he had founded Sundbyberg borough in 1888. He was municipally active in issues like building laws and the setting up of a health committee, poorhouse and other social institutions. His interest in social issues connected with housing above all would be furthered by Brita Åkerman and her younger sister Carin Boalt with great energy during the epoch when Swedish society was the object of investigations about population politics and changes in housing and family life.

After completing her schooling, Brita Åkerman took a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Uppsala University in 1928, and continued after that with studies in the history of literature at Stockholm college (nowadays the University of Stockholm) where she took her licentiate qualification in 1933. She married Alf Johansson, a national economist, who was quickly drawn into the new social democratic government’s work of changing Swedish society to match its vision of the folk home, with among other things better social and housing conditions. This would be their shared field of work throughout their lives, while the family grew at a rapid pace with five children.

Even during her student years, Brita Åkerman had already supported herself with journalism as well as lecturing and teaching activities, and was in 1935–1937 the chairperson of the Home Committee, a group of members from various women’s associations in Stockholm with research and information on family and housing issues on their programme. With further studies on the subject of sociology in her baggage, she was appointed in 1937 by Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet as its secretary, study leader and investigator.

Swedish women had had the right to vote since 1921, but in the 1930s, there were still only a few women who participated in political work in municipal organs and in parliament. When Brita Åkerman was appointed by Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet, she was also the secretary in the Committee for increased women’s representation, with the assignment of organising propaganda and mobilising to increase the number of women available for election in the general elections in 1938 and 1940. During that time, she had continued her studies in sociology at the college and they resulted in a sociological investigation on housing, the results of which were published in 1941 in her first book: Familjen som växte ur sitt hem (“The family that outgrew its home”).

In connection with the publication of her book, Brita Åkerman had received new assignments from the household information bureau Aktiv hushållning that had been founded 1940 as part of the crisis authority at that time. The aim of the authority was to facilitate the adaption of homes to wartime economy. The authority, led by the national economist and future minister Karin Kock, carried out a comprehensive advice and information enterprise about food supplies and use among other things, and clothes care and purchase, in the media and through its own publications.

In 1943, Brita Åkerman was appointed head of Aktiv Hushållning, and a year later manager of the working committee for the recently started domestic research institute Hemmens Forskningsinstitut (HFI). It was the first state-organised enterprise to monitor consumer issues and the head of the Institute was her sister Carin Boalt. A year or so earlier, Brita Åkerman had also been appointed secretary to the women’s delegation in the 1941 population investigation. Under the chairmanship of Tage Erlander, it worked for six years on a number of issues concerning homes and families, like child benefits, maternity welfare, abortion, children’s day care and preschool, school lunches etc.

The work for better home and housing conditions also included a form and design dimension that drew a great deal of attention in the context of the 1930 functionalist Stockholm Exhibition. At the beginning of the 1940s, Brita Åkerman began writing in the magazine Form, and in 1946 she became the director for social issues in the association Svenska Slöjdföreningen (nowadays Svensk Form). At the same time, she was working in various specialist fields as a member of the social and housing committees Kommittén för social upplysning and Bostadskollektiva kommittén. In 1954, the minister Ulla Lindström appointed her as an expert on the investigation into political measures in relation to family issues, resulting in a report on society and families with children: Samhället och barnfamiljerna (SOU 1955:29).

When a new consumer advice section, Statens konsumentråd, was set up in 1957 for the coordination of information and research into the field of consumerism, Brita Åkerman was made its vice chairperson. She had time to publish many discussion brochures and pedagogical publications on consumerism before returning to Svenska Slöjdföreningen in 1962, then as acting director for the whole enterprise. Parallel with this, she was the secretary of the women’s committee Kommittén för kvinnofrågor in the Stockholm municipal district, producing yet more brochures on equality and single parents.

For her work as a pioneer in consumer politics and research on women’s everyday life, Brita Åkerman was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Technology by Chalmers College in 1979. As a pensioner, she began an extensive research project on women in 1980—1984 that resulted in three books: Den okända vardagen, Kunskap för vår vardag and Vi kan, vi behövs.

Brita Åkerman personified the building-up and development of the Swedish folk home with new spaces for families and new needs and living conditions. Several of the women and men who, like Brita Åkerman herself, had been driving forces in building the Swedish welfare society wrote contributions in a publication on the occasion of her eightieth birthday.

Brita Åkerman died in 2006 in Stocksund, at 100 years of age.


Kristina Lundgren
(Translated by Margaret Myers)


Published 2020-04-22



You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Brita Åkerman, www.skbl.se/sv/artikel/BritaAkerman0, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Kristina Lundgren), retrieved 2020-08-08.




Other Names

    Married: Johansson


Family Relationships

Civil Status: Widow
  • Mother: Lydia Emilia Åkerman, född Löfström
  • Father: Karl Alfred Isidor Åkerman
  • Sister: Carin Margareta Åkerman, gift Boalt
more ...


Education

  • Universitet, Uppsala: Fil.kand.examen, Uppsala universitet
  • Högskola, Stockholm: Fil.lic.examen, litteraturhistoria, Stockholms högskola
  • Högskola, Stockholm: Studier i sociologi, Stockholms högskola


Activities

  • Profession: Journalist, lärarvikarie, föreläsare
  • Non-profit work: Ordförande, Hemkommittén
  • Profession: Sekreterare, studieledare, utredare, Fredrika-Bremer-Förbundet
more ...


Contacts

  • Colleague: Signe Höjer
  • Colleague: Ulla Lindström
  • Colleague: Tage Erlander
  • Relative: Birgitta Alexius, systerdotter


Organisations

  • Nordiska kvinnors samarbetskommitté
    Medlem


Residences

  • Birthplace: Södertälje
  • Södertälje
  • Stockholm
more ...


Prices/awards



Sources

Literature
  • Ingelstam, Lars, 'Brita Åkerman', Dagens Nyheter, 2006-08-12



Further References