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Learning Motherhood (Rescheduled)

In the late 1890s a special school was opened by members of the Norwegian feminist organization, Norsk Kvinnesaksforeningen (NKF). Their goal was to support young mothers and wives of the working class by providing training in what they saw as the most important skills for raising healthy children: hygiene, sewing and cooking.

Ultimately, the question became, was the purpose of Norwegian feminism to advance women’s rights to become equal to men, or was it a special status that emphasized motherhood and domestic work while ensuring more political and economic rights than before? Join us to learn more about the turn of the nineteenth century in Norway and this feminist debate.

Feminism and National Identity in the Norwegian Husmorskole at the turn of the Nineteenth Century

Portrait of Randi Blehr, NKF President

Portrait of Randi Blehr, NKF President

In the late 1890s a special school was opened by members of the Norwegian feminist organization, Norsk Kvinnesaksforeningen (NKF). Their goal was to support young mothers and wives of the working class by providing training in what they saw as the most important skills for raising healthy children: hygiene, sewing and cooking. An emphasis was placed on establishing particularly Norwegian cultural traditions in the home, particularly in the fields of cooking and needlework. These traditions reflected an upper class perspective on culture, one that most closely represented the experiences of the women who ran the school, rather than the working class women who were attending.

Randi Blehr, the president of NKF at the time, saw the goals of this work as supporting housewives in the professionalization of their work, potentially creating a recognition of domestic work as productive (and therefore compensated) labor. Critics of Blehr’s work, including from within her own organization, saw this reducing women’s work forever to the home, a role that necessarily limited gender equality in their eyes. This conflict underscores the question that drove much of the work of the NKF in that time: likestilling eller særstilling? Was the purpose of Norwegian feminism for women’s equal status to men or for a special status that emphasized motherhood and domestic work while ensuring more political and economic rights than before?


About the Speaker

Solveig Mebust is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota in the field of Historical Musicology with a minor in Feminist and Critical Sexuality Studies. Her research focuses on the contributions of women to music culture in Norway in the nineteenth century, a feminist perspective that includes work on activists, performers, composers, publishers, muses, spinsters, wives, crafters, and spiritualists. Much of this work has been funded by the US-Norway Fulbright Foundation and the Minneapolis chapter of Torske Klubben. She has a BM in Music Education from Augsburg University and teaches music locally through Cadenza Music in Saint Paul. 

Earlier Event: July 23
Norway Art Print & Book Sale
Later Event: August 3
Nina Hagerup Grieg