Ulrika Eleonora’s court circle was in contact with key figures in the Pietistic reform movement, and was thus a parallel to the spiritual movements on the continent, which were attempting to put the demand of freedom and human worth for the woman into practice.Many poems in Der Nordische Weihrauch manifest distaste for the pomp and splendour of court life and reveal a focus on the inner person.
The authors of ecclesiastical history tend to be theologians and church leaders. Traditionally speaking, they are usually men, and women play a relatively obscure role in their writings. But many women were active in the multitude of revival movements that sprang up in the nineteenth century. New structures gave rise to different kinds of literature, and the spiritual currents of the Nordic countries rippled with female writers, hymnists, and preachers.As a major ingredient of Norwegian spiritual and cultural life, Haugianism was one of the many Nordic revival movements that emerged in the nineteenth century. Haugianism paved the way for Camilla Collett’s indefatigable struggle and for other forces of women’s liberation in Norway.
Eighteenth-century diaries, like the letters, were written with one or more readers in mind – be they children, family, or future generations. These readers were sometimes addressed directly in the text. The eighteenth-century diary does not have the private or outright secret quality that it acquires in the course of the nineteenth century, when it is often written as a journal intime as the writers become more analytical and self-scrutinising.Queen Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotta’s diary is the only extant nineteenth-century diary to offer more incisive analyses of personal feelings. She was well-read and cultured, with a good understanding of the French art of letter-writing, and she had most likely learnt to analyse emotions from the examples of both Richardson and Rousseau. Her diary thus forges a natural transition to Romanticism’s journal intime and the emerging new view of human nature.
The view taken by the Christian Church of women who wrote on holy matters, evangelised, preached, prophesised or in other ways acted as God’s mouthpiece has been inconstant: at times accepting, at times non-committal. Opinions have been determined by the Church’s need for messengers and by pressure exerted on the Church by various interest groups. We can identify four periods of relative latitude as regards these speaking and writing women. First, the period preceding the official establishment of an organised Church (c. second century AD); secondly, the expansion of the Church in Europe during the seventh to ninth centuries; thirdly, lay Pietism of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries; and fourthly, the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Pietist movements in the wake of Reformation and Counter Reformation.
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.
Herrnhutism arrived in Sweden in the 1720s. The Stockholm Herrnhut community, which still exists today, has preserved autobiographies written in the eighteenth century and the early decades of the nineteenth century. Of these, thirty-six were written by Swedish women; the earliest dates from 1761, the latest from 1810-20. By and large, most of the female autobiographies were written between 1760 and 1790, after which the numbers fall off. The women come from all social strata; we have aristocrats and servant girls, bourgeoisie and beggars. Their autobiographies often exhibit the features that can be described as Augustinian: the women seek God in their inner being, primarily in emotion, in normal psychological processes (dreams, strong feelings). Furthermore, they have mystic features: the women abandon themselves to inner meditations on the cross and to erotically-charged meetings with Christ; they know that the depths of the soul contain the spark that makes these meetings and experiences possible.
In Denmark and Sweden in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women sometimes recorded hymns and sacred songs, either from collector’s zeal or for use in private worship, and on occasion perhaps purely as material for a translation or writing exercise. Towards the turn of the seventeenth century, an increasing number of women, primarily in Denmark, not only made copies of other people’s hymns but also wrote their own. There is a marked difference between women’s hymn writing in Denmark and in Sweden. In Denmark we can find the names of writers with an extensive output, women who published a number of collections in their own name. These women found themselves in the contemporary spotlight, the subjects of tribute poems and requests for reprinting of their song collections. In Sweden, on the other hand, women primarily wrote single hymns for Pietist and Herrnhuter communities. The hymns were included in hymn books published from around 1730 onwards.