The Language Debate in Finland
With the Modern Breakthrough in the Nordic region in the 1880s, feverish female activity could be perceived everywhere. Women joined together in national women’s societies, working doggedly and energetically to put women’s issues on the agenda of the legislative authorities in order to ensure the implementation of laws. Writing in newspapers, journals, and literary works, it was young middle-class women – well-versed in languages, conversation, and good manners – who presented issues pertaining to women’s status as a social problem.Many women writers of the Modern Breakthrough experienced the new departure in the form of personal and artistic failure. They broke their backs or their pens on the modern paradox. But the emancipation project was not abandoned. For the women who continued to write for the rest of the century, and for those who made their debut around the turn of the century, the tension between ideals and disillusion, between movement and moment, was merely put in a different form.
Emergence of a Female Public Arena in Norway
Henrik Ibsen did not always go unchallenged. On the contrary, several of the women of the Modern Breakthrough felt provoked to correct or revise Ibsen’s original text, and time after time his portraits of women turn up in their plays and short stories, but rewritten on the basis of a different horizon of understanding. Two obvious examples from 1882 of such a female, partly subversive dialogue with Ibsen are Anne Charlotte Edgren Leffler’s short story “Tvifvel” (Doubt), and Alfhild Agrell’s play Räddad (Saved).These texts clearly show how Ibsen’s portrayal of women served as a challenge, a set piece that had to be tested and partly destroyed in order for the two female authors to arrive at a more credible story.
In texts by female authors, work can often be combined with love and marriage, no matter whether the woman chooses regular paid employment or whether she, as is more frequently the case, becomes her husband’s partner or colleague. If, on the other hand, the woman chooses an artistic profession, the difficulties immediately begin to mount.“Female authors and artists are whores”, August Strindberg wrote in a letter to Ola Hansson. When the woman leaves her sheltered position in the home and steps out into the public sphere to sell her product, and thereby also herself, to an anonymous and paying audience, she is looked upon as being everybody’s woman, a prostitute.The conflict between love and art, between duty and calling, and between everyday life and life as an artist is a theme that recurs, with variations, in the works of the female authors of the 1880s, and one that is often presented on the backdrop of the stage and with an actress or a female singer as the main character.
The Modern Breakthrough in Sweden