More on Aasta Hansteen

Maleri: Marie Hauge / Drammen museum) Kilde.

Hansteen was an early feminist lay theologian, painter and writer and a pioneer in the women’s suffrage movement in Norway. The daughter of Christoffer Hansteen, a prominent professor of astronomy and geophysics at the University of Oslo, Aasta Hansteen received her art education in Copenhagen and Düsseldorf. In 1850 she exhibited her works at the World’s Fair in Paris, and in 1862 she was the first woman to have a book published in “nynorsk” about Norwegian dialects and customs, Skrift og Umskrift i Landsmaalet. In 1878 she wrote Woman Created in the Image of God, based on her own self-arranged public lectures in the years 1876-78 in Oslo, Trondheim and Copenhagen. In this and future publications she fiercely opposed traditional theological views of women and critiqued Biblical authors for having denigrated women both spiritually and humanly by regarding her a second class person in rank and quality.

Hansteen’s self-appointed hermeneutical task was to reread crucial parts of the canon, sort out “rubbish” from its hidden “gold”, and promote women as equal in status to men by virtue of nature and God’s “true design”. Her arguments were in particular inspired by the works of the early American feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton and The Woman’s Bible project, and by John Stuart Mill’s influential Subjection of Women. Her overriding concern was female autonomy and female spirituality in confluence with defining and promoting a new moral/social order.

Aasta Hansteen was a “first wave” feminist, and part of a long tradition of women’s rights movements in Norway. As a result, Norway was in 1913 the first sovereign state in the world to grant women full parliamentary rights. The priestly office of the Church of Norway, however, did not formally include women until 1938. The University of Oslo had in 1899 accepted Valborg Lerche for a full theological degree (cand. theol.). Yet the first female Lutheran priest, Ingrid Bjerkås, was not ordained until 1961. Discrimination, however, is not a thing of the past but continues to take on new discursive forms and subtle shapes. New knowledge, rigorous analysis and imaginative and relevant intellectual and theological reflection are still needed. The Annual Aasta Hansteen Lecture on Gender and Religion is a contribution to help enhance competence and performance in this particular field.

Previous Aasta Hansteen lecturers

  • 2018 Professors Janet R. Walton and Claudio Carvalhaes, Union Theological Seminary, New York
    • "Queering Christian Worship Services"
  • 2016 Professor Melissa M. Wilcox, University of California, Riverside
    • "Em-bodying Nuns: Queer Embodiment and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence"
  • 2015 Dr. Anna Fedele, Center for Research in Anthropology (CRIA) of the Lisbon University Institute (ISCTE-IUL).
    • Turning Christianity upside down? Mary Magdalene pilgrimages as forms of social and religious critique.
    • Listen to the podcast
  • 2014  Professor Catherine Keller, Drew University
  • 2013: Associate Professor Sa'diyya Shaikh from Department of Religious Studies, University of Cape Town
  • 2012: Professor Morny Joy, University of Calgary
    • Women and the Gift: The 'Given' and the 'All-Giving'
  • 2011: Professor Isabel Phiri, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
    • Religious persecution of women: Experiences and feminist motivations for change
By Jone Salomonsen, professor dr.theol., Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo
Published Dec. 21, 2017 1:14 PM - Last modified Apr. 23, 2021 1:38 PM