Stories about the history of Turku often pass over women with a few words. The latest historical study conducted at the University of Turku has highlighted women as active and very influential actors as far back as the 17th century.
The stories will draw us a picture of life during an era in which the church and society regulated notions about women’s education, station, appropriate behaviour, love and marriage. Despite this high degree of control, women influenced things through their many roles and vigorously made their way through life to the best of their ability, even during difficult times.
Six women, six fates
The exhibition focuses on the intricate and rich life stories of six women. They ran successful businesses and worked as notable employers, in addition to being wives and mothers.
Countess Christina Katarina Stenbock arrived in Finland in 1637 with her husband, Count Per Brahe, upon his appointment to Governor General of Finland. The Countess’ responsibilities included supporting her husband, participating in trips and taking care of the aristocratic upbringing of their children, assisted by a large number of servants.
After being widowed, Karin Hakola continued running the trading house owned by the merchant family Hakola, which meant that she owned one of the largest trading houses in Turku and managed an extensive import and export trade. As her husband’s widow, she became the most powerful member of the family and its representative.
Elin Såger was the iron-willed owner of several ironworks as well as a notable employer in Finland through these ironworks. Elin took control of her husband’s property and businesses after she became a widow at the age of 45. She gained responsibility for the trading house in Turku as well as the ironworks in Fiskars, Mustio and Antskog.
This list of wealthy married women also includes Ingeborg Gerdner, who ran a very extensive pawnbroking business and amassed considerable wealth. She tirelessly defended her own and her children’s rights and for years fought over an enormous inheritance with her uncles.
Sisters Magdalena and Katarina Wernle were burgher-class women who influenced things through the more traditional roles of wife and mother. Katarina married Mayor Lietzen and Magdalena silk trader Schultz. The grimmest fate befell the young wife of a burgher, Margareta Kitt, who was sentenced to death for poisoning her husband as a result of an unhappy marriage.
In addition to items from the collections of the Museum Centre of Turku, the exhibition will also feature items from the Nordic Museum in Sweden, the National Museum of Finland, the Collection of Reitz Foundation, the Turku Cathedral Museum, the Crime Museum and Turku University Library.
The exhibition is produced by the Museum Centre of Turku, and its content is based on research conducted by researchers from the University of Turku. The exhibition is implemented in cooperation with the Arts Academy of the Turku University of Applied Sciences and Gars association, an association of 17th century enthusiasts and reenactors.
The customer board of Turku Castle participated in the planning of the content of the events and lectures accompanying the exhibition, in
addition to choosing exhibition star objects that will be featured in videos shared on social media.