Rebecka Svensson was a member of several popular movements. She was active in the province of Blekinge in southern Sweden. She also carried out an extensive correspondence with the author Dan Andersson.
Rebecka Svensson was born in 1879 in the crofter’s cottage Blekingestugan in Silverforsen near Ronneby. Rebecka’s mother Carolina Olsdotter came from a poor background and had in her youth two children born outside marriage. In 1864, Carolina married the labourer Sven Gustavsson and they had seven children, of whom four survived their childhood. Six children and two adults were thus compelled to coexist in one room and a kitchen, both with a stamped earthern floor.
Rebecka Svensson’s father, Sven Gustavsson, worked in a factory at Djupafors. The children helped with the day labour that the family owed the Djupadal country estate. The oldest son Gustav emigrated with his wife and four children to the USA in 1912. The three sisters, Hilma, Maria and Rebecka were responsible for providing for the family; that is, not only for their old parents but also for an elderly maternal aunt, until their deaths. The sisters, with Hilma in the lead, ran a butcher’s and cold meats business in an annex to Blekingestugan. Their enterprise expanded and they started Hilma Svensson’s Grocery in Ronneby – a business that developed into a delicatessen shop. In 1935, the sisters started an open-air café beside the Silverforsen rapids. Cultural events also began to be organised there.
Rebecka Svensson became involved in the temperance movement Templarorden Vesperklockan early on, and also in the labour movement in Ronneby. In 1911, she started a local committee of the National Association of First-of-May Flowers, to collect money for a summer camp for children with tuberculosis. Rebecka Svensson led Aspan’s children’s camp for several years. Through the Workers’ Educational Association (ABF) and the labour movement, Rebecka Svensson received her basic schooling. She was also active as a municipal politician for the Social Democrats in Ronneby.
Rebecka Svensson wrote short stories, poems and theatre plays. A collection of her texts was published in 1913 in Karlskrona under the title Dikter och dialoger dedicated to the labour, temperance and women’s associations. These were pamphlets against social injustices. The previous year, Rebecka Svensson had participated in the Templarorden’s temperance congress in Sundsvall. There she met the recently appointed ombudsman for the National temperance order (NGTO), Dan Andersson, an up-and-coming author.
Rebecka Svensson and Dan Andersson became good friends and 117 letters from Dan Andersson to Rebecka Svensson from the years 1912 to 1918 have been preserved. Unfortunately, her letters to him are lost. The correspondence with the nine years’ older woman activist was very important for the questioning and sensitive author. Dan Andersson came to visit Rebecka Svensson in her childhood home in connection with his lecture tours. Rebecka Svensson supported the young author, morally as well as economically. There was a strong bond of friendship between them. Dan Andersson’s poem ”Vårvisa” (Spring song) starting with the strophe ”There whistles a farm-sure starling” is dedicated to Rebecka Svensson. Their correspondence ceased in connection with Dan Andersson’s marriage to Olga Turesson. The surviving letters from Dan Andersson to Rebecka Svensson are valuable in the perspective of literary history to obtain insight into how the author found his way during times of great hardship. He received good support from the strong woman in Blekinge who was often his first reader.
Rebecka Svensson cultivated friendships with several persons in the labour movement and in cultural circles. Among them were Ernst Wigforss, Hinke Bergegren, Kata Dalström, Ragnar Jändel, Fabian Månsson and Ture Nerman. Rebecka Svensson burned to free people from poverty and spiritual oppression. She received surviving Danish and Norwegian prisoners from the concentration camps in her home in Blekinge in autumn 1945. The letters of thanks afterwards were many.
On the initiative of the Blekinge singer and cultural worker Inge Matsson, who has also produced several publications on Rebecka Svensson, the Friends of Rebecka Cultural Society was formed in 1987 to commemorate Rebecka Svensson and cultivate interest for Dan Andersson.
Rebecka Svensson died in 1954 at the age of 74, in the same cottage as she was born.