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Bonnevie, Margarete Ottilie (1884–1970)

Bonnevie, Margarete Ottilie (1884–1970)

Norwegian feminist, humanist, and reforming author. Born Margarete Ottilie Skattebøl in Hallingdal, East Norway, in 1884; died on March 28, 1970; married Thomas Bonnevie (1879–1960), a judge and brother of Kristine Bonnevie.

Margarete Ottilie Bonnevie was born in Hallingdal, East Norway, in 1884, to a father who was for a time a member of the Storting (Norwegian parliament). He did not consider that his daughter needed to prepare herself for a university education; fortunately, she was able to study for two years in Paris, and she became a qualified translator. She would finally sit for the university entrance examination and matriculate at the age of 58.

Her bent was for practical solutions to problems, and Bonnevie wrote many articles on literature, politics, and social science, which were published in the leading Oslo newspapers. After bringing up her children, she wrote half-a-dozen books on family policies, nursery schools, part-time work, and equal pay for women. These works included Patriarkatets siste skanse (The Last Bastion of Patriarchy, 1948) and Fra mannssamfunn til menneskesamfunn (From a Society for Men to a Society for People, 1955). For ten years, from 1936–46, she chaired Norsk Kvinnesaksforening (The Norwegian Association for Women's Rights), founded by Gina Krog , working to keep alive the women's movement at a period when general interest had waned.

Margarete's husband Thomas Bonnevie (1879–1960), brother of Kristine Bonnevie , was a judge who became involved in the public investigation and debate concerning the fall of Norway in 1940. He was also a strong supporter of the Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo.

At her death on March 28, 1970, Bonnevie left her books and papers to the University Library in Oslo, to be used by researchers from the newly established field of Women's Studies. As the author of the introduction to this archive wrote in 1977: "Much of the progress enjoyed by women in Norway during the past thirty to forty years has come about, directly and indirectly, thanks to her efforts." In a television interview taped when she was in her 80s, Bonnevie listed her basic values: "freedom and justice, truth, warmth and human sympathy."


Aschehoug & Gyldendal's Store Norske Leksikon. Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget, 1992.

Ringnes, Haagen, "Margarete Bonnevie," in Tanker om tvil og tro (Thoughts on Doubt and Belief). Oslo: Cappelen, 1969.

Støren, Thordis, "Margarete Bonnevie. En kvinneprofil" (Profile of a Woman). With bibliography. Universitetsbiblioteket i Oslo, 1977.

Elizabeth Rokkan , translator, formerly Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Bergen, Norway

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