Anna Rogstad 1854-1938

The year 2013 marked the centenary of women’s suffrage, and for this reason several of the female rights activists in Norway’s history were highlighted and celebrated. Anna Rogstad's name comes naturally to mind in this context. In 1911 she attended Storting [Parliament] as a deputy representative, and thus was the first woman in our national assembly. At the time she lived in Kristiania [now Oslo]. But her address was in Trondheim during some of the important years of her upbringing.
Anna was born in Søndre Land in Oppland County. In 1864 her father, Ole Rogstad, was hired as a legal secretary in Trondheim, and the family moved there. Anna had three older siblings in addition to her parents. Initially they lived in Søndre gate 10, later in Sandgata.
Anna received her schooling at Trondhjems borgerlige Realskole [Trondhjem citizens’ middle school], a school with a history dating back to 1783. At Anna's time the school was gender divided, and it was said to be the oldest school for girls in Norway. It was situated at Dronningens gate 1b. In 1871, only 17 years of age, she started her lifelong teaching career, initially at one of the private schools for boys in the city. After passing the "female teacher examination of the higher level" in 1873, she worked as a teacher in a private school until 1877. This was part of the public school programme, which until 1892 was divided into schools where payment was required and those where no payment was required. Female teachers were in much demand because they were paid substantially less than their male colleagues!
Marie, Anna's 11 years older sister, also worked as a teacher in Trondheim. These two unmarried sisters were later to share a house in the capital. In 1877 Anna moved to Kristiania, where she taught primary school for some years. She was deeply involved in the school debate, not least when it came to teacher training. She was a key participant when the nationwide Norges Lærerforening [Norwegian Teachers' Association] was founded in Trondheim in 1892, and was the deputy leader of this association until 1907. From the early days in her career when working in Trondheim she had experienced the tension in the relationship between female and male teachers when it came to pay and status. This situation led to the formation of Norges Lærerindeforbund [the Norwegian Association of Female Teachers] in 1912, and Anna was unanimously elected the leader.
Rogstad was strongly in favour of an extended education programme for young girls, and this belief in teaching young girls characterised her teaching until she retired in 1923.
In addition to her strong commitment to school issues, she was also an active participant in the founding of Norsk Kvindesagsforening [Norwegian Association for Women's Rights] and Kvindestemmeretsforeningen [the Women's Suffrage Association] in 1884 and 1885, respectively. Gina Krog and Anna Rogstad were the dominant personalities in the latter association.
Anna Rogstad was an active politician and member of Frisinnede Venstre [the Conservative Liberal party]. In was when in this position that she made her mark in Norwegian history on 17 March 1911 by attending the Storting as the very first female representative.
Recommended reading: Torild Skard: Særtrykk om Anna Rogstad. 100-års dag for første kvinne på Stortinget [Offprint about Anna Rogstad. Centennial celebration of the first women in the Storting]. Oslo: Norsk Kvinnesaksforening, 2011.

Author: Einar Rædergård