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Standing, from left: Henrik de Maré, Wilhelm von Eckermann and Irma von Hallwyl. Sitting, from left: Ellen de Maré with Rolf in her lap, Ebba von Eckermann with Carola in her lap and with Ebba and Harry in front. 1890. Photo: the Hallwyl Museum/SHM (Public Domain).

The daughters

Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl had four daughters. However one of the daughters, Elma (1870–1871), lived only a year and a half as she died in an unfortunate accident when she accidentally ingested toxic paint. When von Hallwyl moved into No. 4 Hamngatan in 1897, the three remaining daughters had already moved out and had families of their own.

Ebba

Ebba von Eckermann (1866–1960) was Walther and Wilhelmina’s eldest daughter, and among the first women to graduate from gymnasium. Ebba then wanted to go on to university and study architecture, but her parents would rather see her get married. The choice fell to Wilhelm von Eckermann (1853-1937), lieutenant and later valet de chambre (chamberlain) and then chief Valet de chambre at the court. They settled in Södertuna near Gnesta and had 4 children together: Harry, Ebba, Carola, and Wilhelm.

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Graduation photo. Ebba is standing far right. Photo: the Hallwyl Museum/SHM (Public Domain).

Ebba was driven by a great social commitment and was active in several associations. As a young student she was active in the Fredrika Bremer Association and described herself as “a dedicated proselyte and enthusiastic advocate for women.” In the 1910s, when women fought to gain the right to vote, Ebba was one of those who raised her voice, and became known as a rousing speaker – with her own portable lectern, and a clever lobbyist.

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Ellen and Ebba von Hallwyl in 1882. Photo: the Hallwyl Museum/SHM (Public Domain).

In 1911, she was one of the founders of the Stockholm Moderata Kvinnoförbund (women’s wing connected to the Moderata political party) and its first chairwoman. When the national association was founded a couple of years later, she was entrusted to lead it as well. The main focus was on women’s access to education and disseminating information about their civil and political rights. Ebba also campaigned for the abolition of the regulation governing prostitution, as she felt they justified prostitution.

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Ebba von Eckermann with her daughter Ebba. Photo: the Hallwyl Museum/SHM (Public Domain).

And in addition was also involved in issues of care, through the Red Cross, Sofiahemmet’s Systerskårs råd, and as a Board member of Eugeniahemmet. Via several letters to the editor, she showed her support for midwives’ working conditions. Always keeping busy, she supported the Swedish Girl Scouts’ Association and arranged a household school for the workers at the family business.

Her motto was “never sit down.”

Ellen

Ellen Roosval (1867–1952) married lieutenant Henrik de Maré at the age of 19. Later she described it as “jumping straight out of the nursery into the marriage.” They had a son together, Rolf. Henrik was later stationed in Berlin as a military attaché and he moved his family to Berlin to be with him.

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Ellen Roosval, 1923. Photo: Axel Kaudern, the Hallwyl Museum/SHM (Public Domain).

The marriage was an unhappy one, and eventually Ellen fell in love with her son’s tutor Johnny Roosval. In order to be free to remarry, she sought a divorce from Henrik. But the divorce proceedings dragged on for two years as her family was against the decision. Her relationship with Johnny caused a scandal in high society circles, partly because divorces were unusual and very controversial, and partly because he was much younger and lacked personal wealth. The family distanced themselves from Ellen and for many years she was not welcome at her parents’ home, where Rolf moved into after they divorced.

During her years in Berlin, Ellen had studied drawing and painting. In 1910, Ellen began experimenting with sculpture, which would become her primary art medium as an artist. Inspiration was drawn from older medieval art and impressions from travels to distant lands.

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Ellen by a model of Ebba von Eckermann's (the younger) headstone. Photo: the Hallwyl Museum/SHM (Public Domain).

Having received mixed reviews from her first exhibition, she exhibited only once. The images often had a religious character. Together with Johnny, Ellen had Muramaris built on Gotland, where her sculptures dominated the atmosphere. Today she is represented in several museum collections, such as the NationalMuseum, Modern Art Museum in Stockholm, Gotland Museum and the Hallwyl Museum.

Irma

Irma von Geijer (1873–1959) lived her life in line with the female ideal of women in her social class. As the youngest of her siblings, she had a particularly close relationship with her parents.

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Walther and Wilhelmina von Hallwyl, Ida Uhse and Irma von Geijer at Assuan in Egypt 1901. Photo: the Hallwyl Museum/SHM (Public Domain).

Irma enjoyed the ball seasons in her youth and married Underlöjtnanten Wilhelm von Geijer at the age of 21. As a married woman, Irma devoted herself to running the house and managing the entertainment of guests on behalf of the family. Irma conducted extensive correspondence and a rich social life at the castle Wegeholm in Skåne. A lot of time and effort was put into restoring Wegeholm, which they received as a gift from their parents.

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Irma with her children Erik and Margit. Photo: the Hallwyl Museum/SHM (Public Domain).

Irma was different from her sisters in much, in that she cherished tradition and tried to follow the norms of the time. However she also cared a great deal for those close to her and stood by Ellen during her divorce. Irma and Wilhelm had three children: Sonja (who died in infancy), Margit, and Erik.

The book about the sisters