Helga Estby (May 30, 1860 - April 20, 1942) was a Norwegian-American immigrant most noted for her walk across the United States during 1896.
Helga was born in Christiania (aka Oslo), Norway. Helga traveled from Norway with her mother, arriving in Manistee, Michigan during 1871. In 1876, she married Ole Estby, an immigrant from Grue, Hedmark, Norway. They started their new life together initially homesteading a land patent in Yellow Medicine County near Canby, Minnesota. The family subsequently relocated and settled on a farm in Mica Creek, Spokane County, Washington.
Due to the financial Panic of 1893 and her husband's accidents, the family could not pay the mortgage or taxes on their home and farmland. Together with Clara, her 17-year-old daughter, Helga tried to save her family farm by walking 3,500 miles across country to New York City in an effort to win a $10,000 prize. On Christmas Eve, 1896, the New York World reported their arrival in New York City. On arrival in New York, the sponsor of the contest refused to pay, saying the women had missed their deadline. Helga managed to return to her farm only to find that two of her children had died of diphtheria in her absence.
After the Estby family lost their home in Mica Creek, Ole Estby began a construction business in Spokane, Washington. Helga was considered a deserter of her family and was shunned by much of the local Norwegian-American community. Helga went on to become a suffragist and wrote down her story later in her life. Her notes were destroyed, but her story was carried on through oral tradition through her family and through newspaper clippings saved by her daughter-in-law.
- Helga Estby Lodge #47 of the Daughters of Norway in Mountain Home, Idaho was named in her honor.
- Helga Estby Bold Spirited Scholarship Award was established in her memory by the Women Helping Women Fund in Spokane, Washington.
- Hunt, Linda Lawrence (2005) Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America (Random House) ISBN 978-1-4000-7993-3
- Dagg, Carole Estby (2011) The Year We Were Famous (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company) ISBN 978-0-618-99983-5
- Kirkpatrick, Jane (2011) The Daughter's Walk (WaterBrook Press) 978-1400074297
- Biography at HistoryLink
- “Daughters of Norway Website
- ”Helga Estby Lodge #47. Daughters of Norway. Mountain Home, Idaho
- “Helga Estby Bold Spirited Scholarship Award”
- “Canby, MN Museum Website”
- “Random House Website”
- “A Norwegian Odyssey. News of Norway”
- “Mica Creek Cemetery. Coey, Spokane County, Washington”
- “Ole Estby land patent - Bureau of Land Management - General Land Office Records”
- Helga Estby at Find a Grave