”I fru Nicotinas tjänst” – fabrikssystern, tobaksarbeterskorna och Södergården åren 1916 – 1940
This study examines the work life of Herta Svenson as ”fabrikssyster”, a welfare manager, and the activities at the social settlement Södergården at the Swedish Tobacco Monopoly during the years 1916-1940. The objective is to understand the role, the settlement movement in an industrial context and the welfare arrangements made for the workforce at the factories, which mainly consisted women. The study draws on both insights of, and polarities in the field of research. It makes use of a combined theoretical perspective of class and gender. Methodologically, it applies the tools hemliv, yrkesliv and samhällsliv (homelife, work life, citizenship). The questions regards noted, but still unclarified matters, and combines subjects usually studied apart. The study shows how these were highly gendered as well as dependent on constructions of class, and therefore manifested complex relations of power, control and hierarchies. It also shows how Svenson made life-improving changes possible, and how the factory personnel had own agency in the education and activities provided. The relations between the “fabrikssyster” and the working women was hierarchical and controlling, grounded on constructions and ideas of gender and class. On the other hand, it was also one of reciprocal care, familiarity and friendship which exceeded multiple barriers. The study argues that it is vital to understand how Svenson managed her precarious work life position, the intermediate role of caring for the workforce and the for the company, in order to understand the historical manifestations of both social reform and social control – often contested contradictions within the field of research. Hence, it adds new knowledge to, and variegates interpretations in studies which predominately denotes aspects of control. It questions the prevalent understanding, a one-sided interpretation of reform, in regards to the matters within Swedish research. It brings to the fore that further research in general, also with the subjects combined, are needed. Furthermore, it demonstrates the benefits of a merged theoretical framework of gender theory and class analysis, as they apart obscure impacts of the other not considered. The study also contributes to the discussion in gender history of public and private spheres. It clarifies the constructive aspects of the methodological tools at use. They are shown to be helpful in understanding how the lines between empirical practices and theoretical visions of gendered spheres is not as absolute nor as clear as often held.