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Hilma Granqvist

Hilma Natalia Granqvist
Born July 17, 1890, Sipoo. Died February 25, 1972, Helsinki

PhD (Sociology) 1932, Åbo Akademi University
BA (Social and Moral Philosophy) 1921, MA 1923, University of Helsinki

Freelance researcher
Ethnographic fieldwork in Palestine 1925–1931

Scandinavian Popular Science Literature Award 1939

Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by Johanna Spoof
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Åbo Akademi University photo archives

From one setback to another

HilmaGranqvist’s career was full of setbacks, starting with her doctoral dissertation. Granqvist presented the idea for the topic of her doctoral thesis to the professor of sociology Gunnar Landtman at the University of Helsinki: marriage traditions in the Palestinian village of Artes.

Professor Landtman was not at all happy with her choice of topic. He represented the tradition of sociology according to which only general, broad topics should be researched. In his opinion, Granqvist’s research was far too narrow in scope for a doctoral thesis. Landtman and the other professors in the council believed that the research had not been conducted according to acceptable standards, and thus was not scientific enough. Granqvist felt that Landtman was too conservative and narrow-minded.

Because her research had not been accepted at the University of Helsinki, Granqvist turned to her old mentor and friend Edvard Westermarck. Westermarck was a professor at the Åbo Akademi University, who himself had studied the institution of marriage and Moroccan customs. Granqvist’s topic was close to his heart. Westermarck welcomed Granqvist to the university, and her thesis Marriage conditions in a Palestinian village I (1932) earned top grades from the Åbo Akademi University. She became the first Finnish woman to acquire a PhD in sociology.

As early as the following year a head teacher position opened up at Ekenässeminarium, the Swedish-speaking school for women primary school teachers. Granqvist was a qualified primary school teacher who had taken pedagogical courses at the University and whose thesis had gained her academic respect. She did not, however, have much work experience, particularly as a leader. This was the deciding factor when Johannes Cederlöf, the headmaster of the Svenskafolkakademi, was selected as the head of the seminarium in Granqvist’s place. It is very possible that gender also played a part in the decision.

After the rejection, Granqvist decided to apply for a docentship at the department of social and moral philosophy and sociology at the University of Helsinki in 1935. Both the professor of sociology Landtman and the professor of social and moral philosophy Rafael Karsten saw Granqvist to be scientifically qualified enough for the position. Both, however, also felt that Granqvist should be a docent of some other subject. As a result, her application was rejected, and the first Finnish female doctor of sociology did not become the first Finnish female docent. Finally, with the help of her inheritance, Granqvist ended up focusing on working as a freelance researcher.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Åbo Akademi University photo archives​
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Åbo Akademi University photo archives​



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