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Helga Maria Martinsson (Swartz)

Also Known As: "Moa"
Birthdate: (73)
Birthplace: Vårdnäs församling, Östergötland County, Sweden
Death: August 05, 1964 (73)
Södertälje församling (Sorunda församling, Stockholms län)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Teodor Andersson Lundin and Kristina Karlsson
Wife of Karl Johansson
Ex-wife of Harry Edmund Martinsson, Nobel Prize in Literature, 1974
Mother of Olof Johansson; Tore Johansson; Erik Johansson; Manfred Johansson and Knut Johansson

Occupation: Swedish author
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Moa Martinson

Helga Maria Swarts, known as Moa Martinson, (2 November 1890, Vårdnäs - 5 August 1964) was a Swedish author. Helga's ambitions as a writer was to change the society and with her authorship portray the conditions of the working-class but also the personal development of women. In her work she wrote about: motherhood, love, poverty, politic, religion, urbanization and the hard living conditions of the working class woman.


The identity of her father was unknown to Helga her entire life, but she speculated who it could be and that was an inspiration for her work. In her book Pigmamman Helga portrays her mother's situation, pregnant with a married man's child. Helga thought at one point that her father was a married man for whom her mother, Kristina, had worked. Helga's romantic view of her mysterious father decreases as time goes by; for example in Pigmamman the father is already married which keeps him from marrying Klara, who he really loves. When Helga twelve years later writes the book Mor gifter sig you can see how Helga despises the father when he is portrayed to think that he is too good to marry the woman and instead pays her to get rid of her. Another six years goes by and Helga now writes Fjäderbrevet where she never mentions the father at all, he is completely gone. The first years of Helga's life she lived with her grandparents and their youngest daughter Hulda while Kristina worked. In 1892 Helga's grandfather becomes ill and dies, Carin could no longer take care of Helga so she moved to her mother Kristina, with no record of where they lived until 1894 when they moved to Norrköping. Kristina earned very little money, between 1894 to 1896 she worked at Norrköping's wool weaving mill where there were extremely bad working conditions and low wages. In Helga's book Kvinnor och äppleträd, which plays out in Norrköping, she describes the hard and ruthless situation that she and her mother was in during the 1890s. Because of the book Helga was accused for denigration by the right-wing critics, but Helga said that what she did was the opposite.

At the age of fifteen she trained to be a cold-buffet manageress. In 1906 Helga moved to Stockholm in the hope of a job, but it turned out to be harder than she expected. During the financial depression from 1907 to 1909 Helga had to move back to Norrköping. During the depression Helga followed the events related to anxiety about the labour market. This period of Helga's life had a significant impact on her political engagement. She also wrote poems and sent a collection of poems to a literature interested notary who did not find her work to be good.


1908 to 1909 Helga worked as a cold-buffet manageress at different restaurants and hotels, and during the winter of 1909 Helga met Karl Johansson, who was nine years older. She became pregnant in the beginning of March 1909 and Karl proposed, but Helga was very doubtful about marrying Karl. Despite her doubt she and Karl moved to a cottage at Johannesdal and in her book Den osynlige älskaren she wrote about her first year as mother and wife, the hard life in Johannesdal and how she desperately wanted to get away. In 1910 her first son Olof was born and in 1922 she married Karl. The reason Helga hesitated marrying Karl for such a long time was probably Karl's drinking problem. After their first son Olof, the family of Helga and Karl soon expanded. In 1911 Helga gave birth to Tore, 1913 Erik, 1914 Manfred and 1916 Knut. The life on Johannesdal was very poor and hard but the bringing-up of her sons was very important to Helga. She was against flogging and disliked how the school taught nationalistic war romance.

Magazine articles

In April 1925 the family lost two of its members. Manfred and Knut drowned in the lake leaving Helga grieving. In September 1925 Vi Kvinnor was put down and soon after Helga started working for Arbetaren again. She also started working for the paper Brand in April 1925. She also became a part of the political circles in Stockholm. In June 1926 she had her first article in "Arbetarekuriren" and in 1927 she had her work published in Brand, Arbetarekuriren, Templar-kuriren, Arbetaren and Nynäshamns-posten. In October she was also writing for Tidevarvet which was a radicalistic political paper for women. Her first contribution to the magazine where an article about the women of the unemployed but she wrote under a new name, Moa, because she did not want to expose to the syndicalistic circles that she worked for a liberalistic paper. However her work for Tidevarvet was mostly novels and stories, her political articles was still published in the syndicalistic press. In November 1927 Helga traveled to Gothenburg for business. The trip was not as successful as she hoped and she had to return Johannesdal. During her visit in Gothenburg she met Harry Martinson for the first time. He was a hobo and a writer who had been published in Brand and Arbetare-Kuriren so Helga was familiar with him.

Karl's death

Shortly after Helga's return to Johannesdal her husband Karl got a nervous disorder. He started hallucinating and could not eat or sleep. Helga tried to get him to a doctor but he refused. January 14, 1928 Karl committed suicide. Helga had for a long time now considered divorcing Karl, they had not had an easy marriage . After Karl's death Helga's economical situation was hard. Helga's friends in Stockholm started a fund-rising and manage to collect 3300 sek to give to Helga making her financial situation much easier. From the loss of two sons and one husband Helga became very depressed but in March 1928 Helga took a typing course in Fogelstad and when she left the school it was as Moa. During the stay at Fogelstad Moa received a letter from Harry Martinson, he asked if he could come and stay for a while at the cottage in Johannesdal so he could work. The summer of 1928 Harry came to Johannesdal.

Relationship with Harry

During the summer of 1928 Harry and Moa fell in love with each other. Between 1928 and 1929 she became more depressed and in March 1929 she was hospitalized at Södertälje hospital. During Moa's stay at the hospital Harry and Moa communicated through letters while Harry stayed in Johannesdal. On October 3, 1929 Moa and Harry got married, in May 1930 Harry was diagnosed with tuberculosis leaving Moa devastated. The couple had little money so in 1932 Moa sent in a script for En man byggde to the publisher Tor Bonnier which she continued to develop the following year and when she was finish it was change to the book Kvinnor och Äppleträd. In 1933 kvinnor och Äppleträd was published and the author was listed as Moa Martinson. Because of the timing and the theme of the book it fell into the category "modernism". This was Moa's debut and it received a lot of attention. Harry had been diagnosed with neurosis and Moa was very worried for him. Harry was fourteen years younger than Moa and their marriage was not easy. During the winter of 1933 to 1934 their financial situation looked good, they rented an apartment in Saltsjöbaden in the hope of solving their marriage problems. During the winter of 1934 Harry suffered from depression. He had so far never been on one place for so long time that he now had been on Johannesdal and started now running away again without Moa's knowledge of where he was. There were many accusations that Moa was the one to blame for Harry's disappearance, people believed that Moa was to blame for both his physical and mental pain. Not knowing where her husband was Moa soon became desperate from despair and jealousy, she even hired a private detector but without any success with finding out where Harry went she soon gave up. During Harry's disappearance he started to a new woman, her name was Karin. L. At midsummer Harry confessed to Moa that he had been seeing a woman but explained to her that he had ended the affair. Moa became furious but she forgave him.

Harry's affair with Karin. L was not over and he traveled to Tällberg in Dalarna. Harry used the excuse that he needed to be alone and that it would be good for them to be apart to be able to go. After a couple of week Harry had grew tired of Karin.L and returned to Johannesdal. During the last years of their marriage Harry continued running away from Moa and Johannesdal from time to time.


The fall of 1935 it seemed the tension between Moa and Harry had disappeared. Moa was now working on Mor gifter sig. In 1937 Moa decided to leave Bonnier's publishing company, instead she joined Tidens publisher which was owned by the social democratic party. Moa decided to leave because she had been having discord with Tor Bonnier since 1934. She also chose Tidens publisher because of political reasons. From a collection of poems called Motsols Moa's work was now published by Tidens publisher. Moa had been working on Motsols for ten years, it consisted of political, love and nature poems. During the 1930s Moa had been having serious stomach pains, despite many doctor's appointments and diagnosis nothing helped. In June 1937 Moa was hospitalized at Södertälje hospital. There they found out that she had hailstone in her appendix. Shortly thereafter she had surgery. During her stay at the hospital Harry and Moa kept contact through letters. Harry's letters were love letters while Moa still had difficulties with trusting Harry for what he had done, her letters did not show the same concern. She no longer trusted Harry. Their relationship was shattered. In 1939 Harry became sick again and was put in the hospital. He stayed there the entire spring. The marriage of Harry and Moa Martinson was now in a crisis. In June 1939 Harry was discharged from the hospital, however he did not return to Johannesdal ever again.


In six years time Moa had so far had published 8 books and in this time she had gained most critics' respect. In September 1939 the second world war broke out and Moa saw the war as the biggest threat towards the working class, the non-socialistic ruling countries were sending out the workers to fight for values with which they did not agree. Moa had a different opinion when it came to the Soviet war, she believed that the Russian workers were defending their revolution. In order to get more money but also to not feel so lonely Moa now entered a new area, the film industry. She had help from her friend Naima Wifstrand, who was an actress. Moa made a manuscript that she sent to Per Lindberg. He became interested, Moa proposed that they would contact SF. However Moa's ambitions were to big and when she demanded an advance and an answer straight away SF showed no interest. The fall of 1942 Moa met Karl Gunnarsson, whom she had first in 1910 when she worked as cold-buffet manageress at Elfkarleö hotel. Karl Gunnarsson was a writer too and the meeting with him made Moa remember her youth during the 1910s and the move to Johannaesdal. Her memories took shape of a love novel called "Den osynligeälskaren".

Legacy and death

In the 1940s Moa became known as the mother of the people in Sweden. Her books were reaching a wide audience and she now had readers that could identify with the environment she was portraying instead of people being shocked from her naturalistic scenes. Moa was very active and had causerie and debate articles in many daily and weekly papers. She was also hired a lot to hold lectures and traveled the country on different tours. In 1944 she had her debut in radio. Through her strong personality what Moa said and did created attention and because of that attention Moa became a role model for many women in Sweden and most of all the women of the working class. In November 1954, Moa's mother Kristina died at the age of 83. Moa and Kristina's relationship had been very strong and the mother had been a big influence and inspiration for Moa's work. At this time in Moa's life her literary reputation was bad, it had decreased through the years. When Moa's health became worse and worse in the 60s (she was now 70 years old), she stopped writing. However despite her low reputation as a writer Moa still meant a lot to the working class women. Even though her health was at a bad point Moa still enjoyed debating and never stopped expressing her feelings. On August 5, 1964, Moa died at 73 years of age.

Helga Maria (Moa) Schwartz, född 1890-11-02 i Vårdnäs (Östergötland), död 1964-08-05 i Sorunda. Författare.

Gift 1929(-1941-01-16) med 

HARRY Edmund Martinson, född 1904-05-06 i Nyteboda, Jämshög, död 1978-02-11 i Sollentuna. Författare, Ledamot i Svenska Akademien 1949, Nobelpristagare i litteratur 1974.

Forskare: © Maj-Britt Sundin. Adress: Hanövägen 11 C, 294 35 Sölvesborg, Sweden. Telefon: 0725 43 93 68

Denna sida är skapad med datorprogrammet Holger8 2014-04-12

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Moa Martinson's Timeline

November 2, 1890
Vårdnäs församling, Östergötland County, Sweden
Age 19
Stockholm, Sweden
Age 20
Stockholm, Sweden
Age 22
Stockholm, Sweden
Age 23
Stockholm, Sweden
Age 25
Stockholm, Sweden
August 5, 1964
Age 73
Södertälje församling (Sorunda församling, Stockholms län)