(Inger) Marie Wexelsen was born in Toten, and the family's religion was non-dogmatic, Grundtvigian Christianity. For four years she was a pupil in a school for girls, which was "modern" for the time, and eventually she would also operate a special school for young children.
Marie Wexelsen's main concerns were social issues and women's rights. Her family's friends included such experiential college pioneers as Anders Reitan and Ole Vig. Even if she was single and had no children, the situation of children and the conditions under which they lived would come to dominate Wexelsen's work. She was at the forefront in advocating a more open and liberal way of raising children, liberated from the strictest church traditions. In addition to her involvement in education, she was also an important author.
Her first book was published in 1858: En liden Julegave for Børn og Børnevenner [A small Christmas gift for children and friends of children]. The book was published by her brother Fredrik, a well-loved vicar working in Trondheim. It is pervaded by the presentation of light religious matters, without threats of the punishing deity. This book and several others enjoyed great success and were reprinted several times. In 1859, Ketil, En Julegave for de Smaa [Ketil. A Christmas gift for the toddlers] was published. Here we find the lyrics of the song Jeg er så glad hver Julekveld [I Am So Happy Each Christmas Eve], later to become one of the country’s most well-loved Christmas hymns. For the first time, the Christmas message was presented in a language that children could easily understand. Her most familiar book is the novel Et Levnedsløb [A life] (1866), which has obvious autobiographical elements.
In 1894 Marie and her sister Fredrikke moved to Trondheim. Their brother Fredrik already lived there, he who had published her first book, and who also was a well-known vicar and philanthropist. She later published a couple of minor books, but generally lived a retired life. We may believe that some excitement came into her life when her nephew, former Minister Vilhelm Andreas Wexelsen was appointed as the Bishop of Nidaros in 1905.
Even if Marie lived a withdrawn life in her final years, she was not forgotten. The memorial stone on her grave in Tilfredshet cemetery was erected through contributions from school children in Trondheim.
Recommended reading: Sonja Hagemann: Jeg er så glad hver julekveld [I Am So Happy Each Christmas Eve]. Oslo, 1968.