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Maila Talvio

Maila Talvio (Maria Mikkola, née Winter)
Born October 17, Hartola. Died January 6, Helsinki

Writer, public speaker, student nation activist

Haapaniemen keinu (‘The Haapaniemi swing,’ 1890)
Tähtien alla (‘Under the stars,’ 1910)
Hämähäkki ja muita kertomuksia, (‘The spider and other stories,’ 1912)
Silmä yössä, (‘The eye in the night,’1917)
Itämeren tytär (‘Daughter of the Baltic Sea,’1929–1936): Kaukaa tullut (‘Come from afar,’ 1929), Hed-ulla ja hänen kosijansa (‘Hed-Ulla and her suitor,’ 1931), Hopealaiva (‘The silver ship,’ 1936)

Golden Academic Wreath of the Polish Academy of Literature1936
Henrik Steffens prize 1940
Honorary PhD, University of Helsinki, 1950

Photo: Museovirasto/Salon Strinberg
Written by Olli Siitonen
Translated by Matthew Billington

Fighting tuberculosis through education and culture

In addition to her writing, Maila Talvio was also known as a talented public speaker. In contrast to her gloomy literary style, she displayed an optimistic approach to the world in her speeches, which emphasised the will and potential of the individual. Talvio also strived to influence society, for example lobbying for a community college and a museum in her home district of Hartola. Moreover, in the 1930s Talvio made two trips to Central Europe to give speeches.

The home of the Mikkolas, Villa Laaksola in Meilahti, Helsinki, was known as a meeting place for writers and intellectuals. It was there that Talvio arranged her literary salon, whose patrons included Eino Leino, who with some others was later to turn against her. Talvio was lambasted for her positive attitude to Germany and fascism. She wrote glowingly of the new organisation of Germany and Italy, which she considered rooted in the classical period.

The Satakunta drawing room in Villa Laaksola, the home of Maila Talvio and J.J. Mikkola. Photo: Constantin Grünberg, 1953.

Talvio’s close connection with the Satakuntalainen student nation began in 1904, when her husband, J. J. Mikkola, was named as its chairman. Talvio founded, among others, a friendship society for children of former members of the student nation called Karhuliitto. The student nation’s literary circle began in 1907 under the guidance of the author.

Through the student nation, Talvio participated in the realisation of numerous ventures for the common good. One of the most significant of these was the financing of the Satakunta Sanatorium, as in the early years of the student nation members were frequently lost to respiratory diseases. Consequently, student nation members began to collect funds for the construction of a sanatorium.

Talvio, known for her skill as a public speaker, actively participated in the fund-raising project, which ran in the summers of 1911-13, where student nation members toured the county lecturing on the dangers of tuberculosis. Talvio wrote and directed plays for the tour and read her novel Seitsemän kuusen talo (‘The House of the Seven Spruces’), which portrayed the destruction wreaked by tuberculosis in the area surrounding one house. The clinic was finally opened in Harjavalta in 1925.

Double portrait of J.J. Mikola and Maila Talvio by Eero Järnefelt, a member of the Satakuntalainen student nation. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.


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