Arkadia Emelie Björkstén

1823 - 1896


Arkadia Emelie Björkstén was born in Kangasniemi in central Finland and at the age of fifteen met the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg, almost twenty years her senior and at the pinnacle of his career, who became her lover and literary role model. The stir caused by their relationship was calmed by his wife Fredrika Runeberg’s sober attitude to the love affair. Fredrika Runeberg and Emelie Björkstén even became such close friends that Emelie chose Frederika as the first person to read her poems. While Emelie, without parents or education, moved around and lived with different relatives, Fredrika kept in contact with her via correspondence, and Emelie helped care for J. L. Runeberg after he became paralysed in 1863.

After his death, Emelie dedicated her poetry collection Ännu en gång, 1877, to Fredrika “with humility and respect”. It is clear from her letters that she held Fredrika in very high esteem, also on account of her efforts to improve the position of women in Finland. In addition to the aforementioned poems, Emelie Björkstén published the works Sandperlor, 1864, Drottningar, 1867, and De sista, 1886, together with the memoirs Några Minnen, 1871, as well as tales in children’s magazines and translations. She also edited an anthology of women poets entitled Mosaiker in 1874. J. L. Runeberg and Fredrika Runeberg’s letters to Emelie Björkstén together with fragments of Emelie’s diary entries have been published in the twentieth century. Emlie Björkstén never married.