Guldberg was born in the city of Christiania (now Oslo), Norway. She was the eldest daughter of Cato August Guldberg (1812-1892), who was a parish priest. Her mother, Hanna Sophie Theresia Bull (1810-1854), was a cousin of Marcus Thrane (1817–1890), leader of the first Norwegian labour union. Her elder brothers included Cato Maximilian Guldberg (1836–1902). 
When her mother died in 1854, Guldberg took on responsibility for her younger brothers and sister. She became interested in helping people, especially the sick and poor ones in her surroundings. In 1866 Guldberg went to Kaiserswerth, Germany to educate herself as a nurse and deaconess. She visited the Lutheran religious community at Kaiserswerth-am-Rhein, where she observed Pastor Theodor Fliedner and the deaconesses working with the sick and the deprived. Kaiserswerther Diakonie had been founded by Theodor Fliedner and his wife Friederike in 1836. Florence Nightingale had been a former student at this school. 
Two years later she returned to Norway and at the age of 28 she established the Christiania Deaconess House (Diakonissehuset Christiania) and started Norway's first professional nursing program. The school was first situated at Grønland and from 1887 on its own grounds at Lovisenberg in Oslo, where the facility now known as Lovisenberg Deaconess college (Lovisenberg diakonale høgskole) still resides. Between 1886 and 1904, Henrik Thrap-Meyer was engaged as the architect in the development of the deaconess college in the district of St. Hanshaugen in Oslo. 
- "Cathinka Guldberg". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- Guro Hellgren. "Cathinka Guldberg". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- Egil Tveterås. "Carl Guldberg". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- "180 Jahre bewegte Geschichte". Kaiserswerther Diakonie. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- "Den norske Florence Nightingale". psykepleier.wordpress.com. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- James E. Kiefer. "Theodor Fliedner". Lutheran Calendar -biographical sketches. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- Diakinissehusets første hundre år, Nils Bloch-Hoell, Diakonissehuset i Oslo 1968
- "Vår historie". Lovisenberg diakonale høgskole. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- Trond Indahl. "Henrik Thrap-Meyer". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
- "Cathinka Guldberg-senteret Lovisenberg". lovisenberg.no. Retrieved July 15, 2016.
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