Ellen Key

On this date in 1849, author and social critic Ellen Karolina Sofia Key was born in Småland, Sweden. Her father was Emil Key, the founder of the Swedish Agrarian Party, and her mother was Sophie Posse Key, who was born into an aristocratic family. Key was mostly educated at home, where her mother taught her grammar and arithmetic and her foreign-born governess taught her foreign languages.

Key taught for two decades in Stockholm and 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.) Monism has been defined as types of philosophical thought which try to eliminate the dichotomy of body and mind and explain all phenomena by one unifying principle. D. 1926.

PHOTO: Key at age 36 in 1885.

Freedom From Religion Foundation