Hilma was born into a poor family and had to go to work even as a child. In summer 1913, she worked at the Niemenlautta Manor as a maid. One of her most important duties was looking after Hugo Simberg’s child. That summer, Hugo Simberg immortalized her in his painting called Lammastyttö (Sheep Girl).
During Hilma’s lifetime, children’s rights (to education, for example) were not yet acknowledged. International treaties on children’s rights were concluded only later in the 20th century.