Date of Award

Spring 6-1-1987

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art & Design


Little has been written about the women's society of the Norwegian-American Lutheran Church in North Dakota. From 1880 to 1930 it was prominent in the pioneer congregation. Known as the kvindeforening and as the Lutheran Ladies Aid, this society supported its · congregation, contributed to missions, and held many activities throughout the year. The women left few records of their work; they disclaimed any personal importance. The problem has been to determine the actual influence of the Ladies Aid within its own congregation and within its community. Primary sources have been the American Lutheran Church Records, the Women's Missionary Federation Records, and pamphlets published by congregations. From the ALC Records on microfilm sixty-four congregations were selected from most counties with a Norwegian-American population. From the WMF Records ten societies from four counties were studies. Thirty-seven pamphlets were examined. Eight societies had duplicate records or had minimum information. A hundred and three congregations (and societies), about thirteen percent of the eight hundred estimated Norwegian Lutheran congregations in North Dakota, were researched.

Financial records were so incomplete that they were not analyzed. Minutes and histories testify that the Ladies Aid societies financed their congregations substantially. The societies raised thousands of dollars for their missions and projects . Their programs nearly monopolized congregational activity. Individual members taught Sunday School and joined hospital auxiliaries. The societies had a substantial impact on their communities, especially in the rural areas. ·Some societies had a vote in the congregation's business meetings when only men voted. The enfranchisement of women was grudgingly given by the congregations during the 1920s and 1930s and granted statewide by the mid-1950s. Conclusions. The Ladies Aid societies were the centers of their congregations. The men were not, or were ineffectively, organized to offer programs or financial support. Without the societies most Norwegian Lutheran congregations in North Dakota during the period 1880 to 1930 would not have survived. The societies did what had to be done for their congregations' survival.