Frida Segerdahl-Nordström: An Unlikely Swedish Figure Skating Pioneer

"Away with book and embroidery! Do not preach the glorious spring days in four walls, without hurrying into the free nature of God! Enjoy greenery, aromas, colours and life, in the thousands of shapes, where they are now revealed! Listen to the multitude of music from the air and the crowns of the trees, which fill the whole space with sweetheart and harmony." - Frida Segerdahl-Nordström, 1898

Frida Göthilda Segerdahl was born February 20, 1845 in Vänersborg, Sweden, a chilly, damp seaside city on the shores of lake Vänern. She was the daughter of Anna Catharina (Olsson) and Gustaf Segerdahl. Her father, a well-respected author and teacher, worked as the director of the Swedish Forest Institute. The family home was situated between a picturesque lake, a lighthouse bordered on three sides by a deep forest and Hunneberg Mountain. From a young age, Frida and her younger brother could often be found trundling through the forest with their father on his many hunting trips.

Frida was educated by her father in regular school subjects and music as a young girl. At the age of thirteen in 1858, she was permitted to skate on a frozen pond in an area of land owned by the Swedish Forest Institute with her friend, the Forest Institute's janitor's daughter. The Stockholm press got ahold this news and reported with disdain that two young women dared practice a "man's exercise".

Six years later, Nancy Fredrika Augusta Edberg - the owner of the first female bathhouse in Stockholm - began offering skating lessons to women. At the time skating was considered so undignified for women in Sweden that a fence was constructed to "hide the women". When Queen Lovisa herself dared attend, the wall came down. It is probable that Frida attended Nancy Edberg's classes, as they would have been the only means of skating classses for women at the time in Stockholm.

In 1866, Jackson Haines made his first trip to Sweden to give both roller and ice skating exhibitions.
Frida acted as Haines' partner in his several of his performances in Stockholm during this first visit. She received a gold brooch in the form of a skate for her efforts, pinned to her breast by Prince Oscar II himself. She was hailed after her death as the first woman in Sweden to skate in front of an audience. A Viennese chorus girl and dancer, Leopoldine Adacker, performed with Haines at the Maskinisten Bergsten i Teaterhuset in Sweden in 1869. Despite Frida, Nancy Edberg and Leopoldine Adacker's pioneering efforts, the February 5, 1897 issue of "Idun: Praktisk Veckotidning Kvinnan Och Hemmet" noted, "It may well be... that [skating] never will become more common within that gender, which we rightly or wrongly denote as 'The weaker'."

Frida married Karl Jakob Bernhard Nordström on November 10, 1874 in Upsala. Bernhard was the director of Haddorp's agricultural school in Östergötland County. The couple moved to Margretelund and later Lännäs, where Frida became far more well-known for a second passion - hunting - than she ever did for her skating. She shot her first elk in Södertörn in 1868, two years after she skated in Stockholm with Haines and wrote about hunting in several Swedish magazines. She even penned a diary called "Jakter och minnen" in 1898, which is considered the first Swedish book about hunting penned by a woman. She passed away on December 10, 1900 in Stockholm at the age of fifty-five, her role as a Swedish figure skating pioneer never really taken into consideration until her final years.

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