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The Life and Times of Elise Waerenskjold (Exhibit opens Saturday, Sept 19 at 2:30pm)


The life of Elise Waenskjold (1815-1895) is a fascinating story of an intrepid Texas Pioneer Women who was a trailblazer in both Texas and Norway. Her life is a history of perseverance and achievements in the face of adversity.  The Bosque Museum is presenting an exhibition of her life history and accomplishments in its special exhibit room from September through December 2015. The exhibition is being held in conjunction with The Cleng Peerson Legacy Conference scheduled in mid -October.

Elise was born in 1815 to a prominent Norwegian minister and she received an education equivalent to that of young men of that day and time in Norway.  She spoke English, German and French in addition to her native Norwegian.  Her father made sure she would receive solid Christian training which would serve her well throughout her life.  Her mother encouraged her artistic skills, and she became skilled with needlepoint and embroidery.  She was without doubt a woman of many talents who accomplished many feats during her lifetime.

Elise Waerenskjold is best remembered as a Norwegian–American writer who wrote numerous letters describing early pioneer life in Texas. Her writings tell of the hardships endured by women on the Texas frontier. Her letters, found in the books The Lady with the Pen and Light on the Prairie, became required reading in women’s studies at many universities. She was a feminist before there was such a word.

Waerenskjold is remembered in Norway as a steadfast advocate for Norwegian immigration to America and Texas. In 1846 she became the editor of Norge og Amerika which established her as the first female journalist and editor in Norway.  She also set up one of the first school for girls in Norway; she was also recognized as the first female member of the Norwegian Temperance Society.

Her religious convictions and humanitarian philosophy guided her throughout her life.  She was a staunch abolitionist during the American Civil War, and she wrote numerous letters stating that God commanded everyone to love their neighbor as they would themselves. She expressed the idea that all humans are born with equal rights, an idea that would take at least one hundred years to be fully realized in America.

Elise Waerenskjold would be the first person to recognize that she was not a paragon of virtue. She divorced her first husband after three years of marriage and was one of the first women to receive a divorce in Norway.  It is of interest that they mutually agreed to separate but their association was maintained throughout their lifetime. Occasionally, her first husband sent money to her for her support.

Her many achievements occurred in a context of severe hardship.  Her travel to Texas and her early years as a pioneer woman became severe trials for a young lady of middle class society. The hardships of the Civil War, the murder of her second husband, the death of her youngest son,  and the death of her many friends in the Norwegian colony were extreme challenges.  Yet, she survived and did not lose faith. 

Today, 120 years after her death in Hamilton County in 1895, her accomplishments and courage are still remembered. The exhibit celebrates her life, accomplishments and contributions to our heritage.  Take time during the holiday season to come learn about Elise Waerenskjold and appreciate her life achievements and contributions to Bosque County.



Horn Shelter Exhibit 
Norwegian Collection 
Pioneer Collection 
Special Events 
Gift Shop 
The Painted Hills 


Details can be found here