Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon

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Maja Ekelöf


Cleaner, author

Maja Ekelöf, author of the diary novel Rapport från en skurhink, was a unique and important voice in the sphere of social criticism in the 1970s.

Maja Ekelöf was brought up in the small mining community of Grandbergsdal outside Karlskoga. Her father was a bookkeeper. She completed six years of school and later educated herself further through evening classes. In 1940 she married the excavator operator Torsten Ekelöf, and they had five children together: Stig (1941), Britt Inger (1943), twins Jan and Ola (1945) and Lars (1950). They got divorced in 1957.

Maja Ekelöf was 52 years old when she made her debut with the diary novel Rapport från en skurhink in 1970. She had long been the sole provider for her family. She worked as a cleaner and also took other jobs in order to stay afloat economically. When the company Raben & Sjögren announced a competition for best political novel she edited her diary and sent it in. She won first prize and the book became a tremendous success.

It seemed as though publishers, reviewers and the general readership had just been waiting for this type of contemporary documentary of a low-income worker’s tiring daily life. By replacing Maja Ekelöf’s title of “En städerskas dagbok” (“a cleaner’s diary”) with Rapport från en skurhink (“Report from a mop bucket”) the publisher elevated the text from the merely private, making it part of the documentary and socially-critical style of reporting that was typical of the time. Six editions were printed in the year of publication alone. It was immediately translated into Danish, Norwegian and French.

Despite being depressing, Maja Ekelöf’s account is also full of hope. In many ways it mirrors the perspective of the workers’ movement, the left and the women’s movement on the suppressed potential of the poorly-educated. Manual labour is physically draining but the thirst for knowledge remains. Despite her exhausting work Maja Ekelöf took evening classes in social studies and Swedish. She had a keen desire to educate herself and, in spite of her lowly social position, she expressed a high degree of self-esteem. She gained her belief in herself from evening school and from literature. Through literature she developed a sense of self-worth, affirmation and ability, and became part of a social engagement that transcends both time and continents.

Rapport från en skurhink made Maja Ekelöf famous and she gained many new acquaintances. One of those she corresponded with was Tony Rosendahl, who was serving a long sentence for financial misdemeanours in Kumla prison. Their letters were published in 1972.

In 1987 Maja Ekelöf received the Ivar Lo-Johansson prize as the first recipient after the name giver himself.

Maja Ekelöf died in 1989.

Lisbeth Larsson
(Translated by Alexia Grosjean)

Published 2018-03-08

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

Maja Ekelöf,, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Lisbeth Larsson), retrieved 2024-05-24.

Other Names

    Maiden name: Andersson

Family Relationships

Civil Status: Divorced
  • Mother: Märta Axelina Andersson, född Axelsson
  • Father: Henning Andersson
  • Husband: Torsten Henry Ekelöf
more ...


  • Folkhögskola, : Kvällsfolkhögskola
  • Övrigt, Karlskoga: Kvällskurser, Studieförbund


  • Profession: Städare
  • Profession: Författare


  • Friend: Tony Rosendahl


  • Birthplace: Karlskoga
  • Karlskoga
  • Place of death: Karlskoga



Further References