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Gerd Margareta Enequist


Professor of cultural geography

Gerd Enequist was the first person in Sweden to be appointed professor of cultural geography, in 1949. She thereby became the first female professor at Uppsala University.

Gerd Enequist was born in 1903 and grew up in Luleå. Her family originated from Gotland and had a long academic tradition. It came as no surprise that she and her three brothers all gained academic qualifications. In Luleå girls were not allowed to enter higher education, and therefore, to be eligible to take the exam required for a state school teacher Gerd Enequist was sent to live with a relative in Gothenburg. After successfully passing the exam she moved to Norrbotten, where she briefly worked as a teacher. She developed an interest in the dialects of the Torneälv region. This therefore decided to start studying Nordic languages, history and literary history at Uppsala University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in 1929. She then went on to study geography as an extra subject as she was convinced that historical studies required a geographical perspective. She presented her doctor thesis, entitled Nedre Luleälvens byar. En kulturgeografisk studie in 1937. When she, at the age of 46, took on the post of professor she was also qualified in the field of natural geography and had completed studies on geomorphology, amongst others things.

Cultural geography, Gerd Enequist’s subject of expertise, was just developing. The university had divided geography into two areas: natural geography and cultural geography. During her active period as professor about 20 individuals presented theses on cultural geography at Uppsala, and six of her students went on to become professors in different locations in the North. Many of her other students gained posts within the expanding field of public planning. Many of Gerd Enequist’s students went on to be responsible for a large number of public planning developments in Sweden in the post-war years.

Gerd Enequist was a keen proponent of field studies as a method of understanding the consequences of human striving after comfortable living environments. She believed that being outdoors, both in rural and urban locations, facilitated the study of various human behaviour.

Gerd Enequist compared her field to medicine, which is defined and held together by the human as object of subject. She similarly believed geography to be a collective field which had been disadvantaged by the split into two areas. She felt that the natural geographers had abandoned cultural geography without a second thought whilst cultural geography continued to be dependent on natural geography’s soil layers, soil classifications and climate in order to interpret the conditions for cultivation and societal development. The need to assert that cultural geography was a “proper” form of geography was a recurring theme in her scientific efforts.

Gerd Enequist deeply believed in the ability of science to contribute to improving society and she believed that community planning could gain useful information from scientific results. She was very involved in what was then called “the flight from the countryside”. She saw this as a social problem and as an expression of a lack of scientific knowledge in both politicians and planners.

Gerd Enequist’s greatest – and perhaps forgotten – contribution to the field is the triangular diagram that she developed in order to describe in a clear cartographic manner the shape and structure of towns and villages. She did this by characterising communities according to the balance between the three central branches of sustenance: agriculture, industry and service. The triangular diagrams are abundant in the maps which Gerd Enequist was responsible for as part of the major mapping project Atlas över Sverige, published in the years 1953-1971. She saw maps as an extraordinary means of communication and believed that you could both talk to and listen to maps. Each place is situated within a dedicated triangular diagram on the maps. This allows one to gain an understanding about regional variations, how residential areas were structured in the given region and how sustenance of the area was structured.

Fredrika Bremer was a major role model for Gerd Enequist, who saw her as somewhat of a female Jesus-figure, a woman who had suffered on behalf of the women who would come after her. She was moved by Fredrika Bremer’s difficult upbringing and youth and how she had pulled herself out of it.

Gerd Enequist was a frequent and quick-witted debater in the discussion on opening up the priesthood to women that occurred in the 1940s and 1950s. To her it was obvious that women could be priests just like men but she rejected the proposal to introduce a specific priesthood for women. She debated the issue for several years in the journal Vår Kyrka and in Svenska Dagbladet. She was an active church member and a representative on the Uppsala church council. In 1956 she resigned from both the council and the board of the Småkyrkostiftelsen in response to the view of women which had come to dominate in the church. Her own views of the church and women as well as her own (feminist) understanding of God are described in her correspondence with Ragnar Fredberger, then dean of Uppsala, whom she called the guardian of her soul.

Gerd Enequist retained her position as professor of cultural geography until she retired in 1968. For 50 years, right up until 1998, she remained the sole female professor in the field. She stayed loyal to Uppsala and lived there until she died. She never married, nor did she have any children of her own, but for certain periods one of her nephews lived with her while he was studying in Uppsala.

Gerd Enequist was a member of Kungl. Humanistiska Vetenskapssamfundet (the Royal Society of the Humanities) at Uppsala and was made honorary doctor of Umeå University in 1982.

Gerd Enequist died in 1989 at the age of 86. She is buried at the Östra cemetery in Visby.

Gunnel Forsberg
(Translated by Alexia Grosjean)

Published 2018-03-08

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

Gerd Margareta Enequist,, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Gunnel Forsberg), retrieved 2024-05-19.

Other Names

    Alternate name: Eneqvist

Family Relationships

Civil Status: Unmarried
  • Mother: Anna Fredrika Katarina Eneqvist, född Hederstedt
  • Father: Axel Johan Teodor Eneqvist
  • Sister: Edla Elisabet Eneqvist
more ...


  • Läroverk, Luleå: Studentexamen
  • Lärarseminarium, Göteborg: Folkskollärarexamen
  • Universitet, Uppsala: Fil.mag.examen, nordiska språk, historia, litteraturhistoria, Uppsala universitet
  • Universitet, Uppsala: Fil.dr.examen, docent, kulturgeografi, Uppsala universitet


  • Profession: Lärare, folkskollärare
  • Profession: Professor, kulturgeografi
  • Non-profit work: Ledamot av Uppsala kyrkofullmäktige


  • Friend: Ragnar Fredberger
  • Colleague: Axel Sømme


  • Småkyrkostiftelsen
    Medlem, styrelseledamot
  • Kungl. Humanistiska Vetenskapssamfundet i Uppsala


  • Birthplace: Luleå
  • Luleå
  • Göteborg
more ...




Further References