Aarhus University Seal

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

CHEF Talk with Pernille Svare Nygaard (PhD student, Aarhus University)

Info about event


Thursday 10 February 2022,  at 15:00 - 16:00


Online (Zoom)



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.

Chair:  Professor Susan Wright, Co-Director of CHEF, Aarhus University, Denmark

Time: February 10th, 2022 at 15.00-16.00 Central European Time (CET)

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


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.