Monday, 6 June 2016

In a Pretty Pickle

We're not saying we haven't been productive today. We're just saying we have spent most of the day carpeing the diem in no uncertain manner, and, having wrapped ourselves round a bottle of cava, a bottle of rosé, and some beer we forgot to pay for, we are now rather woozy and inclined to sentimentality.

We may or may not have mentioned Lunds studentskegård in a previous post. This Lund institution has provided accommodation for women students of limited means since 1938. A donation had originally been made to erect a building to provide accommodation for male students, but Lunds Kvinnliga Studentförening, the women students' society, entered on a campaign of petitioning to make the accommodation one for women students instead.

The reason for the women students' society's energetic campaigning was, simply, that there was no accommodation available for women students in Sweden in the 1920s and 1930s. Women had gained the right to study at university (except of course law and theology, because God forbid women should end up in positions of authority) in Sweden round about the 1870s, but women students were still viewed with suspicion. A woman living on her own must, according to the mores of the day, be promiscuous and immoral, and the city's landladies hesitated to take women lodgers.

To make a long story short, a university lecturer called Asta Kihlbom, who was chairwoman of the women students' society, took it upon herself to make accommodation for women students become a reality. Thanks to Kihlbom's unremitting arse-kicking, Lunds studentskegård was built in 1937, and the first tenants moved in during 1938. Women students now had a safe and clean environment, with mixer taps, in which to live and study.

A collaborative, democratic spirit reigned from the outset, and still does. Solidarity was an important concept to the early women students, and arrangements were made for visiting scholars to stay at Studentskegården for a modest fee. Indeed, simple but clean accommodation is still available to friends and fellow academics.

We learned today (before we got drunk, and while we were still academically productive) that the green-tiled shower room in the basement at Studentskegården was in fact made available, in the early days, to women students who were in accommodation elsewhere in the city, but whose landladies wouldn't let them hang up their washing (as we all know, female undergarments are inherently shameful, if not downright dangerous) or even use the bath. We have no citeable source on this information, but Audiologist Friend heard it from somebody whose name we can't remember, so we are taking it as gospel. Anyway, look how pretty and clean the shower room is! The mixer tap inspires such confidence, don't you think? Woof!

The stylish green-tiled shower room at Lunds studentskegård, made available to women students who had no access to washing facilities.
An unintentionally hilarious newspaper article about Lunds studentskegård from 1941 bears the headline "While the Bachelor of Arts irons, the Bachelor of Medicine pickles eggs". The notion of women academics living together and cooking their own food was hugely confusing to almost everyone in the 1930s and '40s.

Women were classified as either housewife material, in which case ironing and pickling eggs were suitable activities, or as society hostess material, in which case they were not. Women students, who would potentially make careers and earn their own keep (although the article, mentioned above and pictured below, cites the women students saying coyly that "the sewing machine has been made to make several trousseaus - the girls are busy getting married at this place!"), transcended the traditional classifications, which is why this newspaper felt the need to explain their activities to its readers.

When Studentskegården was still in the planning stages, the issue of whether to install kitchens caused an actual, bona-fide furore, with one phalanx arguing that students, even if they happened to be female, had no business in a kitchen, and another phalanx retorting that women of limited means, even if they happened to be students, might find it useful to have access to a kitchen and not have to eat every meal out. In the end the pro-kitchen party won.

An unintentionally hilarious newspaper article from 1941

Students in the communal kitchen they almost didn't get, in 1941

Students enjoying the lush garden surrounding Studentskegården, in the spring of 1943.
We might have spent the afternoon in this garden, drinking wine like there is no tomorrow.

The article reproduced (in very poor quality - our apologies) above ends by wondering whether, if Studentskegården were ever to produce a Great Woman, she would be "a Madame Curie or a Cajsa Warg" (a legendary cook - like a Swedish Mrs Beeton but a century earlier).
In the end it turned out she was a historian. Birgitta Odén, Sweden's first female history professor and Lund University's first female professor, lived at Lunds studentskegård in the 1940s. If Odén hadn't had access to safe, intellectually inspiring accommodation, Sweden would probably have had to wait a couple of decades longer before it got a female history professor.

Time for a Festive Video! Our day has basically been like this, except we weren't at the beach, and our friends wore more clothes.

Festive Video - Little Big Town, Day Drinking

Related Reading
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