New Online Dictionary Brings Attention to Historically Important Swedish Women

The Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women (SKBL), a dictionary of 1 000 Swedish women and their contributions in Swedish society from the Middle Ages to the present, is set to be launched today.

And another 1 000 women – at least – will soon be added.

Almost 400 experts have contributed to the project, which started over two years ago and has been led by a team of researchers at the University of Gothenburg.

SKBL will be a counterweight to most other dictionaries published throughout history, which have mainly been centred around men and their accomplishments.

‘There has been an intention to do this for a long time; it has just been a matter of finding the time and money. The first plan was to write a book, but since it has taken so long, we decided to create an online database instead, and I’m so glad we did. It’s so much more accessible and useful,’ says Lisbeth Larsson, professor of comparative literature at the University of Gothenburg and one of the project leaders.

Available in both Swedish and English

SKBL will be presented today and will be available for free in both Swedish and English. Anybody can use it, whether they are teachers, researchers, journalists or ordinary citizens.

The database consists of 1 000 articles about women who in some way have made important contributions to Swedish society, from the Middle Ages to the present. Many of the featured women were pioneers in their respective fields. The first female doctor and priest are two examples.

Many doctors, nurses and missionaries

According to Larsson, the material shows that Swedish women have had a strong involvement in the lives of the most vulnerable people in society. For example, many women served as doctors, nurses and missionaries in the 1800s.

‘You can clearly see their persistent and impressive struggles to start schools, orphanages, health care establishments and other social institutions. How they actually started the whole social welfare thing in Sweden and travelled abroad to heal the wounds and lessen the suffering during the great wars. In the 1900s, women’s professional opportunities increased dramatically, but the same tendency remains intact: women are always ready to offer support.’

Another thousand in the next few years

The launching of the online dictionary will not end the project.

‘We’ll keep working and add another thousand in the next few years. Then I think somebody else will have to take over. We could keep going forever!’

Welcome to the presentation of The Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women (SKBL)!
When: 8 March at 3 pm.
Where: University Library, Faculty of Arts, Renströmsgatan 4.
The speakers will include Lisbeth Larsson, professor of comparative literature, Maria Sjöberg, professor of history, Marie Demker, dean and professor of political science, and Agnes Wold, professor of clinical bacteriology.

More information about the launch is available (in Swedish) at:

The Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women (SKBL)
Starting 8 March, the Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women (SKBL) dictionary will be available at:
The database is available free of charge, but must be cited properly.

Lisbeth Larsson, project leader, professor of comparative literature at the University of Gothenburg,
e-post:, tel.: + 46 (0)708 16 30 58

Lisbeth Larsson about a woman featured in The Biographical Dictionary of Swedish Women (SKBL):

‘Anna-Britt Agnsäter, who headed the KF Test Kitchen 1946–1980, is a person who most people might not have heard of but who continues to impact our lives every day. She was born and raised in Älmhult and studied to become a home economics teacher. She started out as director of home economics at Fogelstad Citizen School for Women, and then moved on to the KF Test Kitchen, where she started testing kitchen products and experimenting with new meals and foods, and actually ended up having a major impact on Swedish people’s eating and kitchen habits. It was Agnsäter who decided that one tablespoon is 15 millilitre and a teaspoon 5 millilitre. She also created the food pyramid to foster healthy eating. She wrote 30 cookbooks, including Vår kokbok, which was published in 1951 and found its way to most Swedish homes. It has been printed in 13 editions.’

Photo by Johan Wingborg.