Agnes Wergeland

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Agnes Wergeland
Born May 8, 1857
Oslo, Norway
Died 1914
Laramie, Wyoming, United States
Resting place Greenhill Cemetery, Laramie, Albany County, Wyoming, US
Education University of Zurich, Hartvig Nissen School, University of Oslo, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich

Agnes Mathilde Wergeland (May 8, 1857 – March 6, 1914) was a Norwegian-American historian, poet and educator. Agnes Mathilde Wergeland was the first woman ever to earn a doctoral degree in Norway.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Agnes Mathilde Wergeland was born in Christiania, Norway to Sverre Nicolai Wergeland (1817–96) and Anne Margrethe Larsen (1817–89). She was from a prominent, distinguished Norwegian family. Wergeland's family hailed from Brekke in Sogn. Her brother was Norwegian painter, Oscar Wergeland. She was the great-niece of Norwegian writer and politician, Nicolai Wergeland; hence Henrik Wergeland, Camilla Collett and Joseph Frantz Oscar Wergeland were the cousins of her father.

She attended Nissen Girls School in Christiania in 1879, studied independently Norwegian history, Greek and Roman architecture and sculpture, and medieval history at the University Library of Christiania from 1879 until 1883. Then she studied Old Norse and Icelandic law under jurist Konrad von Maurer at the University of Munich from 1883 to 1885. She then attended the University of Zurich, whence she took her PhD in 1890. Wergeland emigrated to America because there were few opportunities for women in higher education in Norway.[2]


She received a fellowship in history from Bryn Mawr College in 1890 and lectured there for two years before lecturing at the University of Illinois in 1893. She was a docent in history and nonresident instructor at the University of Chicago from 1896 to 1902. In 1902, Wergeland was offered the position of chair of the department of history at the University of Wyoming. Agnes Wergeland remained a University of Wyoming history professor until her death.[3] She is buried alongside Grace Raymond Hebard at Greenhill Cemetery, Laramie, Albany County, Wyoming, U.S.

Agnes Mathilde Wergeland wrote several scholarly works, three of which were published after her death. She also wrote two volumes of poetry which were published by Symra in the Norwegian language: Amerika, og andre digte (America and Other Poems) and Efterladte digte (Posthumous Poems).[4]

An endowment fund was given as a memorial to the University of Oslo at Christiania for Norwegian women students to study history and economics in the United States. A scholarship in history was also established by professor Grace Raymond Hebard to honor her friend and colleague, Agnes Wergeland, as one of the pioneering members of the History Department to the University of Wyoming.[5]

In 1916 Maren Michelet published Glimpses from Agnes Mathilde Wergeland's life, a translation of Glimt fra Agnes Mathilde Wergelands liv.

Selected works[edit]

  • Modern Danish Literature and its Foremost Representative (1895)
  • Ameriká og Andre Digte (1912) Norwegian
  • Efterladte Digte (1914) Norwegian
  • History of the Working Classes in France (1916)
  • Leaders in Norway and Other Essays (1916)
  • Slavery in Germanic Society During the Middle Ages (1916)[6]


  1. ^ Norwegian-Americans (Odd S. Lovoll. Multicultural America. 2006)
  2. ^ The Scandinavian Immigrant Writer in America (Dorothy Burton Skardal, Norwegian-American Historical Association. Volume 21: Page 14)
  3. ^ The Promise of America (Nasjonalbiblioteket, avdeling Oslo)
  4. ^ The Poetry of Agnes Mathilde Wergeland[permanent dead link] (Larry Emil Scott. Norwegian-American Historical Association. Volume 30: Page 273)
  5. ^ Mathilde Wergeland Memorial History Prize Archived October 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. (University of Wyoming)
  6. ^ Biographical and Professional Information (Wyoming Writers) Archived March 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.

Primary Source[edit]

Related Reading[edit]

  • Riley, Glenda (1989) The Female Frontier: A Comparative View of Women on the Prairie and the Plains (University Press of Kansas)
  • Øverland, Orm (1996) The Western Home: A Literary History of Norwegian America (Norwegian-American Historical Association. Northfield, MN)
  • Scanlon, Jennifer and Shaaron Cosner (1996) American Women Historians, 1700s-1990s: A Biographical Dictionary (Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn)

External links[edit]