Radical Woman of the Day: Camilla Collett

On this day in 1813 was born Camilla Collett, considered to be the first Norwegian feminist. Beginning as a diarist during her teens, Collett continued to write fiction, essays, polemics, and memoirs throughout her life, although she published only one novel, Amtmandens Døtre (The District Governor’s Daughters), one of the first Norwegian social realism novels.

Amtmandens Døtre addressed the lot of women in patriachal society, particularly the issue of forced marriages. Collett advocated allowing women to marry for love and grew ever more vociferous on behalf of this ideal as time passed. Although she viewed happy marriage—not career or independence—as offering women the greatest chance for success, many of her literary critiques and essays called for women to cast aside the feminine model of self-sacrifice and subservience and create a new image for themselves.

Collett herself married happily and for love. Her husband, Peter Jonas Collett, was a politician and literary critic who unfortunately died young, leaving Collett to raise their four sons on her own. She never recovered financially from this loss but continued to write despite opposition both gender-based and ideological. She died in 1895.

Via the Radical Women’s History Project.