Were they all men?

The Bager sisters: Hilda, Olga, Elise and Clara.

It is easy to think that the family history presented on this website is all about men: August and Josef, two adventurous men, are in focus . But we have reason to believe there were strong women in the family. Their sister Bina seems to have been one. But this story is even more interesting from a feminist viewpoint. Lets have a look at Josef Hammars mother-in-law and her sisters: — In a previous blog I asked if anyone knew more about Hilda and Elise Bager in Marseille. I had heard some stories that they were independent businesswomen in Marseille. These stories seem to be partly right. In all there were four Bager sisters in Marseille off and on.  As far as we can read from the church registers their father Erland Bager was not the best of husbands (Ann-Britt Hammar has more details). All these four women left home at a very young age and they all ended up in Marseille. Some years later their mother Kristina (born Sandquist) took the younger children and left Erland Bager. But according to notes made by my father after talking to Hulda Hammar (born Sylvander) it turns out that what brought the first one of them – Hilda – to Marseille was her maternal aunt Marie Louise Sandquist. She was clearly an entrepreneurial woman  as attested by a text in Post och Inrikes Tidningar in 1862 from a Swede who had visited Marseille:

“In Marseille we checked in at good so-called skipper house [skepparhus] for Swedes, combined with an elegant café and restaurant, grander than anything in Stockholm. This is run by a decent [hygglig] Swedish woman from Lund, mamsell Sandquist, which by the French is pronounced ‘mademoiselle Sanscuisses!’. She has been resident here since 1850 and has already accumulated a rather comely fortune”.

In an issue from 1866 of the “Indicateur marseillais: guide de commerce” there are two shops listed as owned by Sandqwists:

Sandqwist, M. confection, quai de rive-Neuve 13

Sandqwist, B. comestibles, quai de rive-Neuve 9

The Bager sisters, who all followed their aunt to Marseille were:

Agnes Ragnhilda Gabriella (Hilda) born 1843. On the photo it is written Hilda Häggstad but it is clearly the same woman as on the Sylvander family photos (don´t ask me who Häggstad was)

Olga Emilia Augusta born 1849. In 1870 she is registered as house maid in the Lorichs family in Stockholm. According to my fathers notes she married a Norwegian captain Asbjörnsen. On the photo someone has written “fru Asbjörnsen, f. Bager).  When she moved to Marseille is not clear.

Marianne Lisette (Elise) born 1851. In 1869 she moved to Marseille and according to Erik Sylvander she worked in  a “magasin de fournitures pour la marine”. She later married Adolf Sylvander in 1874 and is my (MW) great-grandmother.

Clara Ulrika born 1856. In the “Indicateur marseillais: guide de commerce” there is a C. Bager listed several times towards the end of the century as “Bager, C. (Dlle) masseuse”.

I do not understand why these industrious women from a difficult family background are not talked more about in the oral family history. I am happy that Hulda Hammars paternal aunt Hulda Landeberg (born Sylvander) collected and kept all the photos and made such precise notes on them, and that my father interviewed Hulda Hammar about her maternal aunts the Bager sisters.

Leave a Reply