A Literary Debate on Motherhood
If nineteenth-century women could not become pastors and if they could not without conflict devote themselves to intellectual work, the closest they could come to the pulpit was by way of writing hymns. Lina Sandell called herself “a good scribe’s pen”, an expression that combines lack of pretence with high self-esteem. The hymn-books of the free-church communities came to be, and still are, totally dominated by Lina Sandell, beginning with the first edition of Pilgrimsharpan (1861; The Pilgrim’s Harp).In order to create a female tradition, the female Christian writers were looking for models among the figures of the Bible. Together with Charlotte af Tibell, Lina Sandell wrote the book Bibelns qvinnor (The Women of the Bible), and Betty Ehrenborg-Posse chose the Bible’s Deborah, Miriam, and the four daughters of Philip the Evangelist as her models. These learned and poetical women, she thought, had been authorised by God to write spiritual songs, even though some might consider this task to pertain exclusively to the clergy. But the position she obtained offered more room for her preaching than she would ever have had as a pastor.
No woman and no deity in the Middle Ages attracted the poets like the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ. Marian poetry was initially written in the international language of religion, Latin, and might later have been translated. Original poetry was also written, in many genres and in the ‘vernacular’.Lyrical, epic, and dramatic Marian poetry is found throughout the Nordic area. There are approximately fifty extant Marian texts in the Norse language. Some of these Norse Marian poems might have been written in Norwegian monasteries. In Sweden, poems to the Virgin Mother were written in Latin and in Swedish. Swedish-language Marian poetry exercised influence on its Danish counterpart through, in particular, the Birgittine order. Marian poetic work in Denmark comprises Latin poems written by Danes as well as original and translated poems in the Danish language.