Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Interdisciplinary Studies


The purpose of this study was to investigate two Norwegian-American debating societies: the Forward Debate Society, founded in 1889, and the Wig Debate Society, founded in 1890. Both societies were in Minnesota. The study included a brief history of the self-improvement movement that eventually paved the way for immigrant debate societies, and an analysis of each society using three criteria: the categories of the topics debated, the annual pattern in which the debates occurred, and the type of propositions that were debated. These immigrant debate societies provided an atmosphere conducive to learning and helped to ease the assimilation process. Through debate, the members were able to question various issues and ultimately become civically responsible citizens.