(November 20, 1858 - March 16, 1940) Sweden
Born in Mårbacka, a small manor in Värmland, and originally a schoolteacher, she won fame with a collection of stories of peasant life, Gösta Berling's Saga. She became doctor honoris causa at Upsala University (1904), and was the first woman to win a Nobel prize (1909) in Literature for her outstanding writing.
The young crippled Selma was never invited for dancing in the ball-rooms. Sadly, she remained unmarried seemingly waiting in vain for the right man to appear.
Among her many books, the all-over-the-world wide spread The Wonderful Adventures of Nils has been read by many millions of children. In her tales, the bewitched Nils Hogersson is travelling through Sweden riding a goose.
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Lagerlof received numerous awards. She became the "grand old lady" in Sweden and a national "Saint". Her reputation was almost spotless. But unfortunately, like so many other Swedes in the 1920-40, she supported the national campaign for improving the "Nordic race".
The real bomb, anyway, exploded exactly 50 years after her death. In accordance with her will, some letters had been kept secret for all these years, not to become public until 1990.
Lagerlof had carefully postponed her posthomous "coming out" as a lesbian, until a time when she hoped society would have become tolerant enough to stand the shock. At her death, in fact, homosexuality was still a serious crime in Sweden.
Her life-time companion and lover was Valborg Olander, and Sophie Elkan had been the rival to Valborg in the hope to gain Selma's love. Selma, in a letter to Valborg, wrote:
"Soon we will work together and make love, make love excitedly. It is so wonderful to think about it."
The neat lady, the role model for generations of school children and teachers, the hailed giant in Swedish academic and social life - not only was a lesbian but had a rich and sensual sexual life over years, including two concurrent rivals.
The old loving couple of Selma and Valborg