Maj Lindman (1886 – 1972) was one of the leading authors and illustrators of Swedish children’s books. She produced extensive work not just in Sweden and throughout the Nordic countries but also in the USA and Canada.
Maj Lindman was born as Mary in Örebro in 1886. After completing her schooling Maj Lindman moved to Stockholm where she began artistic studies. She eventually enrolled at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, where she was selected as the best student of the year in 1906. Lindman later married the artist Gustav Jansson, also an academy student. The couple had three children before divorcing in 1921.
Maj Lindman wrote and illustrated around twenty books centred on three boys called Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr and three girls called Rufsi, Tufsi, and Tott. The latter three are known as Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka in the USA and Canada.
The American publishers, Albert Whitman & Company in Chicago, began to publish Maj Lindman’s books in the United States. These books were considered more suitable for the American market than the Swedish. At the time, Swedish children’s books tended to resemble fairytales written in the spirit of John Bauer and Elsa Beskow. Lindman’s realistic stories were straightforward, ordinary, and simple and bore no resemblance to the elves and trolls of yore. She treated children as clever beings who were worthy of respect. The boys in her books were helpful, generous, and gained much delight from giving away something meaningful.
Maj Lindman’s three fictional female characters are similar to the boys, armed with special caring and compassionate qualities. Her most-read book, Flicka Ricka Dicka and the New Dotted Dresses, published in 1946, has the three girls heading out into the forest where they meet a little old woman in great need of help, which they supply in abundance. They help her with her animals and a load of other tasks without giving a thought to their new dresses which end up torn and covered in dirt. Despite this their mother does not get angry with them and they wash and mend their red-dotted dresses themselves.
Maj Lindman’s clear and explicit illustrations reverberated with the American public. The fact that Maj Lindman herself illustrated and wrote the texts in English simplified the process. A total of 25 different stories portraying the adventures of these cheerful and responsible children were produced and published in the USA and Canada during the 1932–1960 period. The books have continued to be reprinted in new editions making these helpful, honest, and friendly children familiar to many.
Mary (Maj) Lindman, www.skbl.se/sv/artikel/MaryMajLindman, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Sverker Lindström), retrieved 2021-08-26.