It’s rare to find a woman writer who is directly inspired or enabled by her experience as a mother. Although I would like to believe that parents have a direct line to the deepest levels of human meaning, I suspect that most of the time parenting and writing, when they’re not actively interfering with each other, merely exist side by side.

Astrid Lindgren was an exception. She was a village girl, a farmer’s daughter, who left school at sixteen and went to work for the local newspaper. When she was eighteen her boss got her pregnant. It was 1926. She refused to marry him and refused to give up the baby. With tremendous courage she went to Stockholm, found a feminist lawyer who could help her have the baby in Copenhagen (at the only hospital in Scandinavia open to unwed mothers), and kept her son in foster care for three years until she could bring him home.

I’m sure this stubborn defiance is the origin of Pippi Longstocking, and that her struggle to live her own life is the source of Pippi’s anti-authoritarian attitude. In Pippi Longstocking the town authorities tell Pippi that, because she has no parents, she should be put in a “children’s home.” She replies that she already is: “I am a child and this is my home.”

I wrote about Astrid Lindgren for Flow Magazine #5, edited by Nina Siegal.