Date of Award


Document Type

Independent Study

Degree Name

Doctor of Arts (DA)



First Advisor

Dr. Playford V. Thorson


Within the Norwegian-American community of the United States and North Dakota there is a memory of "Norwegian Schools" held mainly in summers. These schools taught the essence of Lutheranism with hymn singing, and Norwegian grammar and literature. These schools seemed pervasive in North Dakota, but there is little material on them.. General church histories neglected them; Sunday School seemed dominant .. People who had attended or taught the Norwegian Schools in the early twentieth century were becoming fewer. It was appropriate to research the schools before recollection faded and significance waned.

Research began with anniversary pamphlets of Lutheran churches which affirmed that congregations had sponsored the schools before the year 1900 and for a few decades afterwards. Research led to two archives in Minnesota where papers of churchwomen and personal documents attested to the vitality of the schools in the Norwegian Midwest. Tn North Dakota individuals were interviewed. The greatest effort was reading the microfilmed minutes of congregational meetings of North Dakota in the original Norwegian. Eventually a hundred and seventy-one congregations were examined.

Research concluded that most Norwegian Lutheran congregations sponsored Norwegian Religion Schools to educate their youth in the basics of their faith, to prepare them for confirmation, and to retain a command of the Norwegian language and other old country traditions. With firm discipline paid teachers taught children for usually six weeks. The celebrations at end of school terms were holidays. Most students were happy with the education they received. By the. end of the 1930s, English prevailed in speech and Sunday School dominated religious education. The old religion schools were reconstructed into Vacation Bible Schools. The legacy of the old schools was a commitment of many North Dakota congregations to further Christian education by other means.

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