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“A man writes when he wishes, a woman, at least one with children and a household, when she can”, wrote Finnish Fredrika Runeberg in the nineteenth century. The history of literature is teeming with women who wrote in sheer defiance – of their situation. There were times when they even did so in rigorous conflict with prevailing perceptions of a woman’s role.

They nonetheless picked up the pen. Compelled by the need to put words to their lives, tell stories, communicate with family and friends through the letter form, or make sure that posterity was left with a worthy account of the family line. For others, the duty to provide for family was a motivating factor. Writing put food on the table and a roof over heads. Along the way, these writers experimented with and created new understandings of what it meant to be a woman, preparing the route towards the respect and acceptance of women writers that we today take for granted.