Ellen Key

On this date in 1849, author and social critic Ellen Karolina Sofia Key was born in Sweden. The daughter of the Countess S. Posse and a father who lost his fortune, Key turned to teaching in Stockholm to support herself for two decades. Meanwhile, she also taught at the Workers' Institute. Key wrote 30 books, seven of which were translated into English. Her best known include Love and Marriage (1911, reprinted with critical and biographical notes by Havelock Ellis, 1931), The Century of the Child (1900) and The Woman Movement (1912). Although Key's progressive views on state child support influenced Scandinavian social legislation, she was not so progressive on women's issues and opposed mothers entering the workforce. Described by freethought historian Joseph McCabe as "a Monist," Key believed "the myths of the Bible" should not be weighted in instruction of children any more than the "Scandinavian story of creation or the Greek legends of the gods" (The Century of the Child). D. 1926.

“. . . the most demoralising factor in education is Christian religious instruction. . . . even a more living, a more actual instruction in Christianity injures the child.

But the most dangerous of all educational mistakes in influencing humanity, is due to the fact, that children are now taught the Old Testament account of the world as absolute truth, although it wholly contradicts their physical and historical instruction. . . .

But the demoralising feature in Christianity as an ideal is, that it is presented as absolute, while man as a social being is obliged to transgress it every day. Besides he is taught in his religious instruction, that as a fallen being he cannot in any case attain the ideal, although the only possibility of his living righteously in temporal things, and happily in the world to come, depends on his capacity for realising it.”

—Ellen Key, The Century of the Child (1900, English version, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 9th printing, 1909)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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