Fredrika Wilhelmina Carstens (Stichaeus): A remarkable Finnish author

Welcome to our comprehensive article on Fredrika Wilhelmina Carstens (Stichaeus), a well-known Finnish author who has had a lasting influence on Finnish literature. In this article, we explore her life, her remarkable works and her contribution to the literary landscape of Finland. Join us on a fascinating journey through the life of this remarkable woman.

Early life and background

Fredrika Wilhelmina Carstens, born as Stichaeus, was born on June 5, 1808, in Naantali, Finland, to a Finnish-Swedish family. She was the daughter of Johan Fredrik Stichaeus and Fredrika Eleonora Ekholm. Her father was governor of the province of Häme at that time. The Carstens family belonged to the civil Swedish-speaking community in Finland.


During her childhood, Wilhelmina Carstens attended a girls’ boarding school in Helsinki and is believed to have also spent some time in Stockholm. At the age of 21, she married Carl Adolf Otto Carstens, an officer in the army. After their marriage, the couple settled in Dampbacka, an estate near Porvoo. They had a total of seven children, one daughter named Hilda and six sons: Constantin, Alfred, Wilhelm, Fredrik and the twins Sten and Carl. ..

Literary pursuits and the publication of “Murgrönan (The Klimop – an intriguing love story with a beautiful portrait of society)
Wilhelmina Carstens was not initially active on the public literary scene in the 1830s. In 1840, however, she made an important contribution to Finnish literature with the publication of her novel “Murgrönan” (The Klimop). This novel, written in Swedish, was the first novel published in Finland. It was published anonymously, but it was widely known that Carstens was the author.

“Murgrönan” is an epistolary novel written in the form of letters, in which the main character, Mathilda, tells the tragic love story of a young woman named Rosa and her own story, which ends with a conventional happy ending. Carstens demonstrated her literary prowess by incorporating poetry into the story and making references to the famous Swedish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. The novel also contains satirical portraits of society and secondary characters, which show Carstens’ keen observation skills.

Although it was the first Finnish novel, “Murgrönan” was not well received at the time. Carstens was criticized for her gender, as writing was considered an inappropriate activity for women at the time. The publication of the novel brought Carstens much grief and she was nicknamed “Muratti” (Ivy) in her local community.

Later life and legacy

After her husband’s death in 1842, Carstens faced financial challenges and had to support her children. She struggled to make ends meet and took on several business ventures, including managing a sawmill and owning the Koskenkylä manor. Despite her efforts, she had financial problems and was unable to pay off her debts in full.

Carstens also devoted herself to charity, organizing fundraising events and supporting philanthropic causes. Her efforts raised a significant amount of money, which contributed to the welfare of those in need.

Wilhelmina Carstens died on April 13, 1888 in Helsinki at the age of 79. Her death marked the end of a life full of literary achievements and a courageous spirit that challenged societal norms. She left behind a rich literary legacy, and her contributions to Finnish literature have been increasingly recognized over time.

The rediscovery of “Murgrönan

For years, “Murgrönan” remained largely forgotten and little attention was paid to Carstens’ work. Toward the end of the 20th century, however, feminist literary scholars began to recognize the importance of her novel. In 2007, “Murgrönan” was finally translated into Finnish and published as “Muratti,” bringing Carstens’ groundbreaking work to a wider audience.

Wilhelmina Carstens’ literary journey, though marked by challenges and underappreciation in her time, has become an important part of Finnish literary history. Her dedication to writing and her groundbreaking novel cemented her position as an important figure in Finnish literature. We are very pleased to hold the copyright for the English translation of this formidable work.

Sources: Fredrika Wilhelmina Carstens (Stichaeus) (1808 – 1888)
Finnish National Biography Online: Carstens, Fredrika Wilhelmina (1808-1888)

Read the Ivy here in English


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