Rowing On Lake Sävelången

Above is an unusual ‘rowing’ postcard. The picture is showing pupils of the handcrafts school at Nääs Castle in Floda in the province of Västergötland, Sweden. From 1872 to 1960, the school was renown for its education in different crafts. It was an old tradition in Sweden to educate children from poor families to keep them ‘off the streets’ and to give them an education in traditional woodworks (for boys) and textile and cooking (for girls). The education at Nääs Castle became so famous that, from 1880 to the outbreak of the First World War, people from forty countries around the world would come to the school to take part in special seminars about woodwork, textile, cooking, but also to take part in tending gardens, games and athletics, song and dance. Today, Nääs Castle is a museum.

The postcard shows a boat, probably on lake Sävelången, which is located by the castle, with students from the school, seven boys and one girl, all dressed-up for a particular occasion. If we count the oars, it’s a six-oared gig with a coxswain or boatsteerer. It is the boys, in their ties and berets, who are in charge of the oars and the rudder, and the girl is acting as the passenger of the boat, at least when the photographer is taking the picture. I can well imagine that the girl would demand her turn at the oar, just like other girls and women have taken their turn at the oars if they were living by a lake, a river, or along the Swedish coastline. In the Swedish maritime history, there are many stories about powerful women fishing or trading, plying the oars in a boat going between islands and the mainland.

At the bottom of the card, someone has written ‘Lycka på resan’ [‘Have a good trip’]. The postcard is to a Fröken [Miss] Bernhardina Andersson in Hisingsholm, which is close to Gothenburg. There is no stamp, or date, so it’s impossible to know when the card was sent (if it was sent…). It’s an interesting picture of a time long gone.

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