Augusta Bäckman would rather die than have a child out of wedlock

Augusta Bäckman (second from left) saved many lives during the cholera epidemic in the 1860s.
Augusta Bäckman (second from left) saved many lives during the cholera epidemic in the 1860s.

Back in the 1860s, becoming pregnant before being married was a massive disgrace in Forsvik. Augusta Bäckman, 27 years old, went as far as trying to die from cholera to conceal the fact that she was pregnant. At the same time as she tried to sacrifice herself, she also saved many lives.

Augusta helped the sick

Fate was not on Augusta Bäckman's side. By the judgement of others, she was in one of the worst situations - she had become pregnant while young and unmarried. It seems that the father did not to want to reveal his identity. It all took place in Forsvik just before the cholera epidemic broke out in 1866.

For some years in the village, Augusta had been the one people would ask for help when someone was sick or having a difficult birth. The other villagers considered that she possessed magical powers. She could let blood, use cups and make medicines.

Survived cholera

When the epidemic broke out, Augusta saw her chance to avoid showing her great sin in public. In the hope of dying instead, she put all her efforts into helping the sick in their homes. She worked night and day, saving many from dehydration and premature death with her medicines and decoctions.

But fate was against her plans and she survived the cholera epidemic. On 11 March 1867 she gave birth to a daughter, Regina, described in the parish records as IC, illegitimate child.

Managed by herself

The church was judgemental about women who gave birth to a child out of wedlock, deeming them guilty of a legal offence that should be punished. Despite this viewpoint, Augusta seems to have been courageous and decided to create a tolerable life for her child and herself, determined that they would live their lives together.

Motherly love seems to have taken over Augusta after she gave birth to her daughter. It was common at that time that a sinful, rejected young woman who gave birth to a child outside wedlock would be looked after by an unmarried man, who may have taken compassion on her and married her. This was not the case with Augusta Bäckman, though! She was to remain unmarried for the rest of her life. She found a room in one of the buildings on Kilebovägen, next to Forsviks Bruk. She created a home for herself and her young daughter Regina there. 

Pins over the forehead

Augusta managed to support herself as she had done some years previously; she continued to take care of the sick in Forsvik. Women preferred to hire her rather than a midwife when it was time to give birth. People would call for Augusta first, and if there was time, they maybe also called the priest. Many found it difficult to move on to eternal life in the eleventh hour. Augusta always found a good solution; for example, if the person had been in the habit of working on Sundays, Augusta solved this by breaking the patient's sewing needles over her forehead and letting the pieces fall down. The method is said to have been infallible!

Her daughter studied in Stockholm

She brought Regina up to be an independent, forward young woman. Augusta passed on her nursing skills, medicinal methods and decoctions to her daughter. They soon worked side by side.

When Regina was 20 years old, she decided to move to Stockholm to learn more about nursing the sick. She later returned to Forsvik and continued in her mother's footsteps, making social work and care her profession.

Tough wood

Augusta was, no doubt, finally respected despite her "debauchery" earlier in her life, even though some people were certainly ready to condemn her. Regardless of others' judgements, she took the high road and showed them that she was made of tough wood that did not crack easily.

Updated: 2017-05-03 10:53