Amalia Eriksson…Against All Odds

Statue of Amalia in Gränna park

After visiting Gränna, Sweden, where I saw Polkagris being made, and learning about the inventor, I have been drawn to her story. We have a few similarities, one which is obvious, is that I am a woman, and she is a woman. The other is that she legally operated a bakery/confectionary in her home, and I legally operated a wedding cake business in my home, in the early 90’s. That’s where the similarities end.

When Amalia was 10 years old she lost her parents, and siblings by death from cholera. In 1855 she moved from Jonköping, where she was born, to Gränna, where she worked as a maid. In 1857 she married Anders Eriksson. In 1859 she had twins. One was stillborn, but her daughter Ida lived. Only one week later, her husband died.

All of that would have been enough to pull anyone down. But, not Amalia. In 1859 she made application with the town of Gränna for permission to operate a bakery and candy confectionary. She was poor, and needed a way to support herself, and her child, but a woman as the head of a business was not the norm. Men were given preference in that day. It is believed she is the first woman entrepreneur in Sweden. There were a few other successful business women previously, but many ran the business their husband started, or inherited the business after the husband died.

In 1859 she invented the Polkagris. It is a peppermint stick confection that is red and white. The Polka dance was just starting to be popular in Europe. The swirling and twisting of making it, and the swirling of the red stripes had part in the name. Gris is translated as “pig”. Pig is what candy was called at that time. Clever marketing, I think. Taking the name of something that was already popular, and putting the name to the candy. It is the same thing Disney does with all of its movies, to sell other products.

Amalia in front of her shop holding Polkagris

The bakery and Polkagris shop was originally done in her kitchen. Her living room was her showroom. She continued to have great success at innovation, and marketing. At some point she opened a regular shop. Royalty stopped at her bakery, and purchased Polkagris. This even helped her marketing more, and made the Polkagris more popular.

Polkagris - Photo by Daren R. Couch

Amalia lived a long life, until the age of 99. Her daughter Ida took over her business after she no longer ran it.

So…after many deaths, having a newborn, treading in never been done before territory of being a woman entrepreneur, innovation, and marketing, and a product that lives on, which has put Gränna on the map. Amalia Eriksson is a woman to be admired.

Also see I Went to Candyland.
Globe Trottin’ Granny

With the circumstances, would you have been able to do so well as Amelia?
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9 thoughts on “Amalia Eriksson…Against All Odds

  1. Kathy,
    Amalia had everything against her…What a great example of not giving up. The twisted candy sticks look amazing! Keep
    Writing …. 🙂

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