Mateli Magdalena Kuivalatar came from a farming family and is regarded as the most virtuous of the known Finnish-Karelian female singers. She learned to read at an early age, and as a confirmand stood out on account of her singing talent. At the age of twenty-one, she married a young widower; after three decades of a vain struggle to retain the family farm, she ended up the wife of a smallholder. The youngest of her eleven children, of whom five died, was born when she was forty-six.
Her songs depict a self-confident and passionate woman who defines both her relationship to the village community and to her husband. Her influence in Kanteletar, 1840, a lyrical anthology of poems collected and edited by Elias Lönnrot, whom she met in 1838, is considered to be important.