Freedom or Love? Marriage, Single Life, and the Road to Happiness in Swedish 1920s Magazines

Emma Severinsson


This article analyses discourses about self-supporting women in Swedish women’s magazines in the 1920s, after the attainment of legal equality in marriage and the acquisition of the right to vote. The self-supporting middle class woman was a controversial figure in this context. On the one hand symbolizing freedom and independence, she was on the other hand ridiculed and labelled mannish and unattractive. The article pays special attention to the notions of happiness, freedom, love, and marriage in the material. Depending on how they were coded in relation to each other, they gained different meanings. When happiness was connected to freedom, it was emphasized that a woman could never be happy within marriage; however, when happiness was tied to love, it was claimed that happiness was attainable in marriage. Freedom and marriage were thus incompatible in both discourses. Love was restricted to marriage. The article demonstrates that there was a negotiation around the position of the middle class woman during the 1920s, which in turn led to an expansion of possible identity positions for women.

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