Today’s Google Doodle pays tribute to Minna Canth, a Finnish journalist, author, playwright and social activist. Minna Canth was born Ulrika Wilhelmina Johnsson on 19 March 1844 in Tampere, Finland. Minna Canth was married to teacher Johan Ferdinand Canth and worked under him for editing the newspaper Keski-Suomi. When he passed away in 1879, Minna Canth worked at her family-owned draper’s shop to support her seven children. She began writing in 1883 with the play Murtovarkaus or Burglary. According to legend, the writer was known to be ahead of her times and often faced opposition for her ideas and outspokenness. She gained prominence because her writings reflected women’s issues and were all for women’s empowerment and ambition. Minna Canth’s birthday that is March 19 is celebrated as a Flag Day in Finland, making her the first woman to have a dedicated Flag Day in the country. Her birthday is considered the Day of Social Equality in Finland and she is thought of as the flag bearer for women’s rights in the 19th century. The Google Doodle shows a sketch of Minna Canth with books, a pencil, a pair of scissors, and the sign for equality. This denotes her work as a journalist, playwright and her family business as also her work for women’s rights.
According to information on Minna Canth, the author’s most famous plays are Anna Liisa (1895) and The Worker’s Wife or Työmiehen vaimo (1885). In Anna Liisa, a 15-year-old (unmarried) girl gets pregnant and hides her pregnancy. On the birth of her baby, she suffocates it to death and her boyfriend mother helps her bury the baby. The twist comes when Anna Liisa is getting married to another man and is blackmailed by her former boyfriend and the mom who had helped her earlier. Anna Liisa chooses to confess her crime and go to jail rather than succumb to pressure by her former lover. In The Worker’s Wife, the woman protagonist Johanna is married to an alcoholic man who lives on her money. As it happens, Johanna cannot do anything about her situation as her money legally belongs to her husband, according to the laws of those times. The Worker’s Wife turned out to be controversial because of its handling of women’s rights and especially her right to money and property, but it had an impact when the Finnish parliament eventually enacted a new property law, say reports.
Minna Canth wrote her autobiography, Hanna, in 1886 and later an autobiographical piece for the magazine Samtiden in 1891. Also penning short stories apart from plays, Minna Canth wrote as a journalist under the pseudonym Wilja. She translated the first volume of George Brandes’ 1972 work Hovedstrømninger i det 19de Aarhundredes Litteratur or Main Currents in the Literature of the Nineteenth Century into Finnish, along with Hilda Asp, an actress and teacher. Minna Canth also translated Arne Garborg’s 1884 work Forteljingar og Sogar or Village Stories.