L.M. Ericsson & Co. was certainly one of the first workshops to offer work to women to any great extent. This began with Lars Magnus’s wife Hilda winding wire in the family’s home: “winding the electromagnetic coils using insulated wire, at that time exclusively copper wire covered with satin, is decidedly a woman’s job,” wrote Johansson. Over the years, the volume of winding grew and the work was done in a special section of the workshop staffed mainly by women.
Another operation was managed by Hanna Hammarström, who sought out Lars Magnus and Cedergren in 1884 and offered to supply insulated copper wire, a product they previously had to import. After some setbacks, she was able to provide the quality required and became Ericsson’s main supplier. Lars Magnus offered Hammarström a workplace in the factory at Tulegatan; mechanical power was provided using the end of an axle protruding through a hole in the workshop wall.
Hammarström employed up to eight hands, all women. A friend of the Ericsson family, she kept Lars Magnus up to date on competitors. A competition jury that in 1886 awarded “H. Hammarström” first prize at an exhibition of machinery was surprised to discover that the exhibitor was a woman; its members promptly visited the factory en masse to confirm the fact with their own eyes.
Carl Johan Andersson remained a partner in L.M. Ericsson & Co. until 1886, when Lars Magnus took over his share and became the sole proprietor. Andersson went on working as a foreman for many years. Workmates described him as an unobtrusive but energetic worker. There was never a hint of a dispute between him and Lars Magnus.
Lars Magnus remained skeptical about trained engineers for a long time. It was not until March 1890, when the company had 100 or so employees and was celebrating the production of its 20,000th telephone, that he took on his first engineer, Victor Hallberg, and a few years later the second, Klas Weman. Neither had been to university but both had experience of telephone operations and had acquired specialist expertise abroad, Hallberg through production in the USA and Weman from telephone exchange operations in Britain. Weman was later to become head of the company’s first venture in the USA.
In 1894, Lars Magnus finally took the step of employing a qualified engineer from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. He failed to make the grade and left after a year. His successor, also from the institute, was a bad choice as well: this engineer had to leave his position and then moved on to a German competitor, where he was paid well for the knowledge he had gained about L.M. Ericsson & Co. But it was third time lucky: Peder Hammarskjöld, a graduate from the institute, turned out to have the talents needed to succeed in the business and eventually became the company’s representative in the difficult British market.
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn