The Angels of the Winter War
The Creation of the Lotta Svärd
The name "Lotta Svärd" came from the
novel, "Vanrikki Stoolin tarinat" (Stories of 2nd Lieutenant Stool)
by J.L. Runeberg. The book contains
mostly fictional poems set during the Swedish-Russian
war of 1808-1809, and provides a heroic image of the Finnish
soldiers who fought in this conflict. One of its poems is "Lotta
Svärd,” which tells the tale of a soldier’s wife, named
Lotta Svärd, who follows her husband to war, selling drinks to soldiers
and boosting moral.
"Ennen kun Suomessa taisteltiin,
"Ere the noble king to Finland's shore,
tuli morsioksi hän sotilaan;
She'd become a warrior's bride.
Ja Svard kun lähtöhön käskettiin,
When the drums beat,
and Svard went off to the war,
han vei Lottansa mukanaan."
She followed him stride for stride."
verse of poem "Lotta Svärd" from "Vanrikki Stoolin Tarinat" by J.L.
In August of 1919, Didrik von Essen,
the Commander-in-Chief of Suojeluskunta used
Lotta Svärd to describe the various volunteer organizations
in his writings. This term caught on through the
different organizations and soon many
carried the name Lotta Svärd. The date of the Lotta Svärd Association's (Lotta Svärd Yhdistys) establishment
is unclear, though it was added
to official registry in 9 of September 1920.
Common rules for the organization were accepted on September
21, 1921, and its mission was to "invoke and reinforce
Suojeluskunta-ideology and to assist in defending creed,
home and fatherland.” In
order to fulfill this mission, the following goals were
- To defend and uplift the moral condition of the Suojeluskunta.
in the medical functions of the Suojeluskunta.
- Assist to provide provision needs of the Suojeluskunta.
and assist in fundraising efforts of the Suojeluskunta.
- Participate in the office
functions of the Suojeluskunta and gather funds for
its own work
and to benefit the
The Lotta Svärd organizational structure comprised
of a Central Board, District Boards, Local Units, and Village Sections.
Along with this structure, the organization was broken into four sections
that were defined by the type of work done by the volunteers: nursing,
provisioning, equipment and fundraising.
Members of Lotta Svärd could be broken into three categories:
- Acting Lotta: Women were now trained to perform additional
tasks beyond nursing and provisions, including air surveillance and
signaling. This group was divided into categories according to where
they were located.
- Supplies Lotta: Other active members of Lotta Svärd who
worked in their assigned sections.
- Supporting members: They paid the membership
fee, but didn't actively work in Lotta Svärd Association.
They also didn't have the right to vote or be candidates
in its elections (unlike other
In 1939, these categories were expanded.
- Acting Lotta: They were now divided into sub-categories,
depending on whether they served in their home area or outside it.
- Reserve Lotta: They had similar training as Acting
Lotta, but they had no orders for serving in any specific place.
They functioned as reserves, which could be called upon to reinforce
or replace acting Lottas. They were also divided into sub-categories,
which were determined by whether they served in their home area or
outside of it.
- Supplies Lotta A: In mobilization, they would be called
to serve in a task or profession that they
had been trained for.
- Supplies Lotta B: All other Lottas not defined in the categories
The Little Lotta organization
was founded in 1931 and during the Continuation War (1941-1944)
the name was changed to Lotta-girls. Activities of the
organization were quite similar to adult Lottas, and activities
included fixing clothing, training for giving first aid, doing
handicrafts and sports.
During the first year of Lotta Svärd Association, the membership reached
almost 34,000. By the outbreak of the Winter War, membership jumped to
about 130,000 and nearly 173,000 by 1943.
Next - Being a Member of Lotta Svärd
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