Kock, Karin (1891–1976)

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Kock, Karin (1891–1976)

Swedish economist and first woman member of the Swedish government. Name variations: Karin Kock-Lindberg. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, on July 2, 1891; died in 1976; daughter of Ernst Kock (chief supervisor in the Swedish Customs Office) and Anna (Aslund) Kock; graduated from the Whitlockska Samskolan, in Stockholm, in 1910; University of Stockholm, B.A., 1918, M.A., 1925, Ph.D., 1929; married Hugo Lindberg (a lawyer), in 1936.

One of Europe's foremost economists and the first woman Cabinet member in Sweden's history, Karin Kock was born in 1891 in Stockholm, where she attended the Whitlockska Samskolan, a combined high school and junior college. Shortly after graduating in 1910, she went to work as a statistical assistant with the Bureau of Statistics in Stockholm, leaving after three years to pursue her studies at the University of Stockholm. After receiving her B.A. degree in 1918, she was employed by a Swedish bank as a statistician and economic researcher. On her own time, she earned both her master's and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Stockholm, specializing in economics. Her doctoral thesis, a study of interest rates, was published in 1929 as the first of the "Stockholm Economic Studies" series. A second book on the Swedish banking system was published in 1930.

In 1932, Kock left the bank to become a professor of economics at the University of Stockholm, where she held teaching posts until 1946. During that period, she was also involved in a number of economic surveys for the Swedish government, one of which, in 1934–35, explored the economic and social trends of the period and proposed certain reforms in the compilation of statistics. Others included an investigation of salaries paid to Swedish women (for which she wrote a report on the theory of women's wages), a survey of the industries dependent on forest resources, and a study on private saving and the rate of consumption in relation to the financial state of the country. Kock also published a number of unofficial treatises and articles.

In 1947, Kock was appointed to the Swedish Department of Commerce as chief of one of its bureaus, and that April she was appointed consultative minister in the Social Democratic Labor Cabinet of Tage Erlander. The latter appointment marked the first time a woman was seated at the King's council table and was noted in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet as "a high point in the striving of Swedish women toward full citizenship rights and recognition of the just principle that merit and skill, regardless of sex, should be decisive in appointments to high government positions." Kock's duties ranged from formulating the national budget to confronting issues of internal consumption versus foreign trade and the inflationary pressures of the postwar home economy. Kock was also named Minister of Supply in October 1948. She served until 1949. During the bicameral period (before the constitution was changed in 1971 and the number of houses of Parliament reduced to one) only four other women became ministers: Hildur Nygren (1951), Ulla Lindström (1954–66), Alva Myrdal (1967–73), and Camilla Odhnoff (1967–73), all of them members of the Social Democratic Labor Party.

Kock was Sweden's delegate to the International Labor Organization Conference in Paris in 1947 and served for several years as the Swedish delegate to conferences of the Economic Commission for Europe. She was also a member of the Swedish Economic Society and the Swedish Federation of Business and Professional Women.

Kock was married in 1936 to Hugo Lindberg, a lawyer, but continued to use her maiden name in public life. Although an intimidating woman by reputation, she was apparently extremely approachable and down-to-earth. Barbara Spinning of the New York Sun, who met Kock when she was visiting the United States in 1948, remarked on her ability to put people at ease. "Her conversation slips effortlessly from a learned discussion on nation budgeting to a comparison of hemlines in Stockholm and New York." Karin Kock died in 1976. In May 1996, a Swedish postage stamp was issued in her honor.


Information from the Swedish Parliament.

Rothe, Anna, ed. Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1948.