Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

The Danish Health Visitor Scheme 1937-1980: between state and God


| Søren Baltzer Rasmussen

Date Wed 17 Nov
Time 15:00 16:00
Location Online (Zoom)

Time: November 17th, 2021 at 15.00-16.00 Central European Time (CET)

Place: A Zoom-link will be shared with the participants closer to the event

Register before: 15.11.2021 


Press here to register for the event




Chair: Susan Wright



Pernille Svare Nygaard (PhD student, Aarhus University)

I am a PhD student, employed at the Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University in Emdrup. I hold a master’s degree in European Ethnology from Copenhagen University (2016). In addition, I have a diploma in pedagogy and didactics (2019) and a professional bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Health (2010). I am now working on the research project “Women’s University”, where I am writing my PhD dissertation on the women who completed a vocational, higher education at Aarhus University in the period from 1938 to 1968.


Astrid Elkjær Sørensen (PhD, Postdoc, Aarhus University)

I am a postdoc, employed at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, where I am a part of the research project “Women’s University”. In my postdoc, I explore the reasons behind as well as the consequence of the academization of the teachers’, nurses’ and pre-school teachers’ profession in the period 1990-2020. I hold a master’s degree in Nordic language and literature (2014) and a Ph.D. in History (2016) from Aarhus University. I have primarily worked within the fields of gender history and labor history.



With a desire to reduce the high infant mortality rate, the Danish parliament introduced a law in 1937: Act on Combating Morbidity and Mortality among Children in the First Year of Life. The law made it possible for the Danish municipalities to employ health visitors. With a micro historical perspective on the everyday life of two deaconess sisters, Sister Dagmar (1911-2008) and Sister Alice (1913-2006), we will draw a portrait of the history and significance of the health visitor scheme in Denmark from 1937 to 1980. In our presentation, we will elaborate on the establishment of the higher education for health visitors as well as the basic conditions for deaconesses. Based on our case study, we will provide insight into how the health visitor scheme has affected women with new-borns, and how it has been experienced and practiced in everyday life. A significant part of the formation of the health visitor scheme is connected with the idea of ​​the Danish welfare state and in relation the social democratic party. We, however, argue that the health visitors in their practice also relied heavily on the tradition and ideology of Christian philanthropy.