Arkadia Emilie Björkstén (July 26, 1823 – January 15, 1896) was a 19th-century Finnish poet, often writing under the pen namee ***. She published four well-received books of poetry between 1864 and 1886. Her work was deeply influenced by the poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg, with whom she had a long romantic affair beginning when she was a teenager.
Emilie Björkstén was born in 1823 in Kangasniemi, a town in central Finland. After being orphaned at a young age, she began to move from place to place and stay with different relatives around the country.
While living in Porvoo at age 15, Björkstén met the Finnish national poetJohan Ludvig Runeberg, who was nearly 20 years her senior. The two began a romantic relationship, and the successful older poet also served as a literary inspiration and mentor to Björkstén. The height of their emotional affair was between 1846 and 1849, but they remained linked throughout their lives.
While their relationship did cause a stir, it was tempered by Johan’s wife Fredrika Runeberg‘s reaction, which was to accept the affair and befriend Björkstén. A poet herself, Fredrika also became a mentor to the young writer, becoming the first person to read her poetry. The two women’s work went on to contain similar symbolic elements, and they also shared a common aim of improving women’s status in Finland.
Björkstén continued to move from one relative’s house to another throughout her adult life, but she stayed in touch with the Runebergs, and when Johan became paralyzed in 1863 she returned to help care for him. Like Fredrika, Emilie is said to have put up with an “astonishing amount of bad behavior” from Johan over the course of their relationship.