Hilma and Yrjö Jahnsson

yj_hilmaThe Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation was established on 16 December, 1954, by Mrs. Hilma Jahnsson (1882-1975), donating funds acquired together with her husband. She herself wished to stay in the background, stipulating that the name of the foundation must never be changed. Thus it only bears the name of her spouse, Professor Yrjö Jahnsson (1877-1936), although it actually owes a great deal to them both.

The Jahnssons were born in Turku. Yrjö’s father who died young was a Doctor of Philosophy, a schoolmaster, and a Finnish nationalist. Hilma Hägg was the daughter of a warder, who died before Hilma was born.

The Jahnssons both worked to finance their studies at the University of Helsinki, where they had their MA degrees. Yrjö Jahnsson was a fennoman and a social reformist. Yrjö Jahnsson’s doctoral thesis on the history of Finnish economics from 1810 to 1860 was completed in 1907. Hilma Jahnsson sacrificed her doctoral thesis on the conditions of women workers and concentrated on supporting her husband. Yrjö Jahnsson was appointed as the professor of economics at the Helsinki University of Technology in 1911.

yj_yrjoYrjö Jahnsson was active in many fields. He bought property, and even founded a brick factory to get his property repaired. The Jahnssons became wealthy during the 1920s and 1930s. They had several residences in Helsinki. To assist her husband in administering their property, Hilma Jahnsson graduated in 1917 as the third female lawyer in the history of Finland. She worked as the secretary of the labour committee of parliament in 1917-30. Before that, both the Jahnssons had already worked as shorthand typists in parliament.

After the Jahnssons noticed that many of the Finnish-speaking young were without a place to study, they financed the founding of the Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteislyseo school in 1923. They also founded Finland’s first night school in Helsinki in 1927.

In the early 1930s Yrjö Jahnsson became an anti-depression prophet as he criticized the hard interest and monetary policy of the government and central bank, calling for them to take a more active role. His critical lecture at the Finnish Economic Association in 1931, however, met with little response – his lectures were not published until 1985.

After Yrjö Jahnsson unexpectedly died in 1936, Hilma took control. She guarded their property through the Second World War, and vigorously oversaw the school they had founded, to her very last years. She was made Honorary Counselor of Education in 1966.

The couple had no children, and they had planned to establish a foundation for their property. In 1954 Mrs. Hilma Jahnsson established a foundation bearing her husband’s name, and served as the chairwoman of its board until 1971.