Gunvor Wallin was a legal practitioner and the second woman in Sweden to become a doctor of law. She was also the first woman in Sweden to be appointed associate professor of law.
Gunvor Wallin was born in Växjö in 1911, where she graduated from school in 1932. She moved to Lund the same year in order to begin her legal studies. In 1937 she sat her exams and subsequently worked in Växjö district court. Like many other female legal practitioners in the 1930s, Gunvor Wallin found it difficult to find employment, as women were not welcome everywhere. In addition to a widespread negative attitude toward female legal practitioners in many areas of the judicial system, a provision in § 28 of the ruling form of government - which dated from 1809 - prevented women from working as judges or professors. Government jobs were reserved for “native-born Swedish men”. As a consequence of men being called up for military service during the Second World War the judiciary was forced to open up to female applicants. Shortly after the outbreak of war in 1939 Gunvor Wallin returned to Lund in order to start working at Håkan Gillberg’s legal office. She became a member of the Swedish bar association in 1942 and four years later she opened her own legal office in Lund. She remained a member of the Swedish bar association until 1958.
Like many women who had studied law during the first half of the twentieth century, Gunvor Wallin decided to specialise in family law, initially as a practising lawyer and later as a researcher. In tandem with her legal work she began doctoral studies in law in the 1950s. In December 1958 Gunvor Wallin defended her doctoral thesis on family law, which was entitled Om avtal mellan makar and brought her a lot of attention. Gunvor Wallin was the first woman in Lund, and only the second woman in Sweden, to become a doctor of law. This was more than 60 years after Elsa Eschelsson had been the first Swedish woman to defend her law thesis at Uppsala University.
By the end of the 1950s all formal obstacles to women gaining state employment had been removed. Both the option of becoming a judge and the option of an academic career were now completely open to women. Gunvor Wallin continued to be active at Lund University. The success of her thesis allowed her to gain a position as docent in 1959. In 1963 she became university lecturer in business law and tax law. She continued working with family law, both as a teacher and as a productive researcher. Over the course of several years she wrote various legal books on subjects including parental rights, inheritance rights, and wills. In 1968 Gunvor Wallin was appointed associate professor (preceptor) in civil law at Lund, but she did not become the first woman to be appointed full professor. Several more years would pass before Anna Christensen became the first Swedish woman to gain her own chair in law, in 1975.
Gunvor Wallin died in 2010, the year after she had become Lund University’s first female jubilee doctor of law. She is buried at Båstad new cemetery.