Lovisa Mathilda Nettelbladt was an author and one of the earliest Swedish female travellers to America who wrote travelogues.
Lovisa Mathilda Nettelbladt was the daughter of Carolina Elisabet Charlotta Lochner and Fredrik Nettelbladt, a wholesale merchant and ship-owner. She grew up in Stockholm in a well-off home. She was sometimes registered as living at the home of her paternal uncle, C F Nettelbladt (also a wholesale merchant). After her father went bankrupt in 1838 she lived in comparatively straightened financial circumstances. She never married.
In 1842 Lovisa Mathilda Nettelbladt published the epistolary novel Mathildas bekännelser eller Petreas första roman. The novel tells the story of a young girl’s journey from romantic ideas and dreams to publishing a novel about a happy marriage. It was translated into German in 1848.
In 1850, the same year that her father died, Lovisa Mathilda Nettelbladt travelled to America with her friend Hedvig Eleonora Hammarskjöld. Lovisa Mathilda Nettelbladt remained in America for six years. She mainly stayed in a variety of places in North and South Carolina. During her travels she largely moved among the upper social circles and provided for herself by teaching embroidery and the art of making flowers and decorations out of wax and feathers. Her travelogue, entitled En svenska i Amerika. Erfarenhet och hugkomst ifrån de Förenta Staterna, was published in 1860 and – as indicated by the title – is a retrospective portrayal of her travel experiences. The depictions consist of dated summaries of her experiences in each place she visited. She mostly recounts her impressions of people and families whom she met whilst travelling. The introductory section reveals the harsh circumstances in which many Scandinavian immigrants lived. The theme of American hospitality is a constant throughout the book, along with the – in Lovisa Mathilda Nettelbladt’s opinion – privileged position enjoyed by American women. At one point she questions whether single and self-sufficient women such as herself – “governesses and ‘bonnes’”- would have been as favourably received in Sweden as she was in America during her travels.
Another recurring theme is that of slavery. Lovisa Mathilda Nettelbladt’s approach to the subject is sometimes ambivalent. She expresses disapproval of all forms of slavery and also recounts her horror when exposed to a housekeeper’s mistreatment of her slaves. At the same time she claims to largely see happy and contented slaves who are well-treated by their masters, whilst in a slightly longer discourse she compares this favourably with the conditions in which many poor and property-less Swedes were living.
Lovisa Mathilda Nettelbladt is an interesting example of an early Swedish female traveller to America and her travelogue belongs to the earliest publications written by Swedish female travellers. She died in Stockholm in 1867.