Maria Jäderin-Hagfors, or Maja as she was called all her life, was a productive and popular author, above all of books for girls.
Maja Jäderin-Hagfors was born in Stockholm in 1882 and she grew up in a villa in the Stockholm suburb of Frescati — apparently a welcoming and hospitable home. Her father Edvard Jäderin was a professor of geodesy, a polar explorer, the leader of the Stockholm workers’ institute and a much appreciated lecturer on popular science. Her paternal aunt Anna Branting, married to Hjalmar Branting, was an author and a women’s rights activist. Her uncle Axel Jäderin was also a politician, however he was firmly conservative, which certainly must have led to lively discussions within the family.
After studies at the coeducational Whitlockska samskolan and the French school (Franska skolan), she married Frans Adolf Hagfors, an insurance clerk, at the age of only 20. Their first child was born the same year, and the couple had three further children before their marriage was dissolved in 1924. It was only after her divorce that Maja Jäderin-Hagfors became established as an author.
Maja Jäderin-Hagfors’ literary debut was the adventure book for boys Äventyret in 1926. The year after appeared one of her better-known books for girls, Flickorna på Uppåkra, in 1927, and after that she seems to have found her niche in the genre “girls’ novels”. Other titles are: Marianne och Anne-Marie in 1929, En flicka och hennes mascot in 1932, Stella in 1936, Det finns dagar in 1938, I livets vår in 1939, and Barbro går sin egen väg in 1945. Towards the end of her life, her focus changed towards books for younger children – many published in the series B. Wahlströms flickböcker.
Many of Maja Jäderin-Hagfors’ “girls’ novels” have older main characters than we associate with youth novels nowadays: 20—22 years of age was not unusual. The books dealt with themes like engagements and marriages, according to the genre conventions, but also much about earning a living, professional life and self-realisation. The heroines work in offices and shops, but they also have artistic dreams. Many are energetic entrepreneurs, preferably in the home decorating branch. Maja Jäderin-Hagfors’ first book from 1925 was about furnishing dolls’ houses: Dockskåpet och dess möblering. Upholsterer/Furniture-maker, costume-maker, baker and chemist are other professional choices that come to life in her books for girls. Signe, the main character in En flicka och hennes mascot, takes her driving licence and becomes employed as a private chauffeur. The five sisters in Flickorna på Uppåkra run a farm with great zest, and are clearly related to Ester Blenda Nordström’s Patron Annmari from 1931. The girls’ reasons for working are largely economic, but with obvious elements of self-realisation.
Many of the books end according to the conventions of girls’ books with engagement and marriage, however preferably to a man who shares the main character’s interests. They plan together to continue her enterprise and business. He is not someone who demands that she should give up her work. The ideal is “the wife as comrade” as it had already been described by Marika Stiernstedt in 1922 in Ullabella.
During the 1930s, Maja Jäderin-Hagfors also published four novels for adults, all received quite positively. Most notable was Varje kvinnas rätt from 1935. It can be read as “a contribution to the discussion on the nativity question” according to a contemporary critic. It does not only show Maja Jäderin-Hagfors’ involvement in women’s issues and current discussions, but treats an ethical problem that is not only a women’s but a human issue – the right to have children. The book’s main character sees to it that she becomes pregnant with another man, since her husband has turned out to be sterile. The book ends happily in the sense that her husband finally accepts the child as their shared offspring.
Altogether, a picture is given of a productive author of 45 published books. Maja Jäderin-Hagfors appears as having been engaged in contemporary issues — and polemics against ideas of Gunnar and Alva Myrdal can even be discerned in certain books. Other books witness to a strong engagement for women’s right to self-realisation and meaningful occupations — married or not.
Maja Jäderin-Hagfors died in 1953. She is buried at the Northern Cemetery in Solna.