localStorage.setItem('track', '1'); localStorage.setItem('trackCenter', '0');


Tokerudutsikten gives you a view of Bærum, Oslo, the Oslo Fjord and Nesoddlandet. It is one of several viewpoints on Tanumåsen.


Tanumutsikten is one of several viewpoints on Tanumåsen. South of Tanumutsikten there are also good viewpoints from the lower part of Tanum cemetery and from Tokerudutsikten even further south.


Access either from Steinshøgda/Stein Gård or Gjettum. For more information, click here.

Emma Guesthouse

With a great location close to the forest and a short distance from the town of Sandvika, Emma Guesthouse has 16 rooms on two floors. We offer a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere, with a common living room and kitchen. In summer, you can enjoy the tranquility of the garden with lush nature, green lawns and large birch trees. You can also go for a nice walk in the nearby Tanum forest or take a trip to the local beaches and enjoy a swim in the Oslo fjord. In winter, if you are interested in skiing, Kirkerudbakken and other ski slopes are close by. Seek out the nice cross-country trails in Tanum, Vestmarka and Lommedalen and many more.   

For more information and booking please click here.


Tokerud farm

Buildings built before 1915 – all have been demolished, except Drengestua/Emma Hjorth Museum

Old traces... 

The oldest trace of human activity in the Emma Hjorth neighbourhood came from the discovery of a stone axe and a stone club, most likely dating back to the Neolithic age (2400–1800 BC). The axe was discovered in the early 1950s, at the point where Tobias Kupfers vei splits. It is presumed that Tokerud farm was cleared sometime between the Early and Late Iron Age (500 BC – 1050 AD).  

The local pronunciation of the name was tukeru and the name is derived from Tóki (male name) or Tóka (female name). The farm was part of the Nesøy Estate in 1625, and it was bought by Knud Frantzen in 1663. From 1674, Tokerud had a registered title to salmon fishing in Sandsvikelva. The main road north passed through Tokerud, so there must have been quite a bit of traffic passing by. 

In 1682, Anna Felber Krefting of the Krefting family from Bærums Verk, bought Tokerud farm. In 1766, the property was split and sold on as two farms: Vestre and Østre Tokerud – western and eastern Tokerud. In 1826, the Tokerud farms had a combined total of 7.5 hectares of infields and a stock consisting of 2 horses, 4 cows and 10 sheep. The farms also included several crofts and forest land in the areas around Bærum. The cabin Solknatten, which Solveig Godske erected in 1968–70, is on Tokerud forest land.  

Acquired by Mrs. Emma Hjorth  

In 1903, Mrs. Emma Hjorth bought the two farms Vestre Tokerud and Østre Tokerud for NOK 48,000 in a foreclosure auction. She moved the 35 children who had been living at Fru Hjorths Pleie- og Arbeidshjem for Aandssvake, as it was called back then. 

By 1908, the care home was at full capacity with 60 patients. She erected two new buildings on the property, which increased the capacity to include an additional 40 people. By 1915, the home had approx. 100 patients, or alumns, which she preferred to call them, as well as approx. 23 staff members, including farm workers.  

In 1915, the farms included 17 large and small buildings, approx. 70 hectares of in- and outfields and a large livestock. According to the survey report from that same year, the farms were in very good condition. All of this was given as a gift to the State of Norway by Mrs. Emma Hjorth later that year, after the care home and her personally had been met with considerable resistance and criticism in recent years, both in the press and in Parliament.  

Transferred to the State 

In the years between the two world wars, the care home was characterized by steady decline. Very little maintenance is performed and the number of patients increases, with fewer and fewer staff to look after them. Two additional buildings were erected during this period, and the funding for these buildings came from the care home’s operating profit. The other eight years during which the home turned a profit, until around 1938, the profit was returned to the State to settle the deficit in the National Budget. After the war, the care home was compared to the German concentration camp Dachau, by a former prisoner and reporter for Aftenposten by the name of Tressel. This comparison was brought up several times in the public discourse at the time.     

In 1915, the home was gifted to the State by Mrs. Emma Hjorth on the condition that the care home would always remain under the same administration as the special education schools, and that the property must “always be used for a care and work home for the mentally deficient”. These two conditions would later prove to have a huge impact on measures in support of people with intellectual disabilities. The latter played a role as recently as the deinstitutionalization reformin the 1990s. A regional activity centre (REGA) was established, a number of activity- and work-related services were continued, and many of the former residents at the institution still live in the area in accordance with their own wishes.  

The only building still standing from the original farm acquired by Mrs. Emma Hjorth, is the building currently housing the Emma Hjorth museum

The alumns are working in the field, araound year 1915.

Source: Emma Hjorth museum

The Boys’ ward

Built before 1915 – later demolished.

The Boys’ ward was established by Mrs. Emma Hjorth in the main house on Vestre Tokerud, which she bought in 1903 and where she founded the Fru Hjorths Pleie- og Arbeidshjem for Aandssvake, later renamed Emma Hjorths Hjem (EHH). It was located approximately where the Emma Café is today. After the State assumed responsibility for the care home in 1915, the building became over-crowded and extremely run-down. Around 80 boys and men lived there, in very close quarters and with only one bathroom. The beds were placed right next to each other, and the residents had to climb over their footboards to get into their beds. The building was in use right up until it was demolished in the 1960s. 

Excerpt from interview with Reidar Jensen, who started working at the EHH in 1933:  

“In the Boys’ home, yes, that was bad. They had a toilet in buckets and such upstairs, which they would carry down to empty. One of the boys had that as his job, and you can probably believe how it would slosh around and splash about. Everything was so old there. No, that was bad. And when they would eat, they mostly used bowls and spoons. If they were tin plates, I can’t say for sure, but that Hole (head) liked to get things as cheap as he could, he didn’t really bring up the standard, did he, he wanted it cheap... And then he’d buy food for us at H.L. Johansen, and that meat he got in barrels, it was every which colour, that was. I don’t want to say it was spoiled food, but it was cheap and poor food, that’s for sure. It was bad to begin with, but it did get a bit better after a while. For breakfast we had bread with cheese and meats, and then milk, of course. We had our own milk, we had many animals. Eastern and Western Tokerud had a shared barn, I think we had around 10–12 cows, and two horses.”  

Source: Om hundre år er allting glemt? Emma Hjorths Hjems historie 1898-1998 by Halvor Fjermeros, p. 28.

Reidar Jensen in the middle, year unknown.

Source: Emma Hjorth museum



The Cripple ward

Built before 1915 – later demolished.

Close to the Boys’ ward was the original farm house, which Emma Hjorth initially used for the Girls’ ward at the Fru Hjorths Pleie- og Arbeidshjem for Aandssvake, later Emma Hjorths Hjem (EHH). From 1909 it was used as a Cripple ward. It would care for children who had physical disabilities, and many of them did not have intellectual disabilities. 

Nils Ottar Lerstad (on the right in the photo below) was admitted to the Cripple ward at the age of 3 in 1928. Despite having a bright mind, he was placed in the care home because he had rickets and was paraplegic. 

His physical strength meant he was able to help many of the other residents with their washing and dressing. He would walk on his hands up and down the stairs between downstairs and upstairs to help out. At night, he would help change those who had accidents, both clothing and bedding, because there was only one night guard on duty. One of the residents Nils helped was Bjørn Lindgren (on the left in the photo), who was both mute and paraplegic. The two became good friends and chose to stay at Emma Hjorth together when EHH closed as a result of the deinstitutionalization reform. In 2003, Nils was awarded the King’s Medal of Merit for his service to the other patients.  

In Dr. Ole B. Munch’s time, the Cripple ward was converted into a children’s ward and renamed Trollstua. The building was most likely demolished in the 1960s.  


Source: Emma Hjorth museum


Built in 1931–1934

In 1929, the head of the home at the time, Jens Hole, submitted his first application to erect a house at Emma Hjorths Hjem (EHH) for older, troubled boys. A year and a half before, he had started raising funds for this purpose. His application was denied. In the winter of 1931–1932, he had the farm workers dig out a plot and build a foundation. The building eventually got a roof. In 1933, the ministry asked where he would find the funds to finish the building. He responded as follows: “They will come, of that I have no doubt. For God, who hitherto has worked in our favour and allowed the work to succeed with limited funds, surely will not let these efforts have been in vain.” He found the funds and the building, named Borgen, was completed in 1934.  

For many years, the building was used as a home for troubled men. Former staff members reported deplorable conditions in the basement, where many spent all their time. Accounts from former residents also include violent incidents and punishments. 

Borgen was eventually acquired by the Emma Hjorth school, which was founded by Dr. Ole B. Munch in 1959. He was passionate about the “mentally deficient” getting an education, and the residents at EHH learned to read and write. A recreation supervisor was hired around 1960, and a teacher by the name of Helge Morset was hired in 1961. 

The third floor at Borgen was used to house conscientious objectors until the institution was closed in 1996 as a result of the deinstitutionalization reform. The Municipality of Bærum currently rents the buildings and studio spaces out to artists.   

The security cell and the dungeon 

Excerpt from Om hundre år er allting glemt? Emma Hjorths Hjems historie 1898-1998 (1998) by Halvor Fjermeros, p. 46-48.  

Borgen and its basement 

“(...) Anne Aarsland started working at Borgen in 1951, after having worked at Småbarnshjemmet since 1947. I spoke to her in the spring of 1998. She remembers that the highest clothing number was 72; they all had numbered clothing, and there were 72 male patients, distributed across Borgen’s three floors. The second floor was where “the fit ones” lived, 24 of the most well-adapted, those who could, if necessary, manage without help for an entire day (...). Down in the basement was the “corridor” for the most difficult boys, where, among other things, there were two bare cells with plaster walls. That’s where the ones who acted out ended up, but never without the doctor’s approval. There was an aura of fear surrounding the infamous Borgen basement, and the most unruly boys constantly lived with the threat of being thrown “in the cell”. A less severe form of punishment was the straitjacket, or the frequently used boiler suit with a locked rear strap. Far more terrifying was the fear of castration. This type of surgery was often associated with uncontrollable sexuality or specific sexual “excesses”. Anne Aarsland remembers three times from the decade after 1951 where boys returned from surgery at Bærum Hospital, but she puts no stock in “gossip” that Munch performed the surgeries personally in his office. 

“After my first shift at Borgen, I came home to my wife and said I could not stand being there,” said Kjell Stranden, who started working there as a carer in the summer of 1963. But he describes how quickly one got “corrupted” — used to the conditions and tough enough to survive among 70 male patients at Borgen, including the “dungeon” in the Borgen basement. “I was put straight to work the day I started. I got no training at all. We weren’t encouraged to hit anybody, but at the same time, we were warned that some patients were dangerous and that some probably would challenge the new nurse.” When one of the boys did just that, I was so highly strung that I threw him into a wall and said that was the last time he tried anything with me,” said Stranden, who spoke to me in 1998. (...) “The strange thing is, some of the ones described as dangerous in 1963, I would run into down at the shop in Slependen with ‘young girls’ as their carers just a few years later. There were many myths about the patients, which they felt compelled to live up to, and which their carers were trained to handle in specific ways. This radically changed after the move to the new ‘80-man’ men’s pavillion a few years after I started working at Borgen,” said Stranden.  

Source: Emma Hjorth museum and Om hundre år er allting glemt? Emma Hjorths Hjems historie 1898-1998 (1998) by Halvor Fjermeros.

Nursing home // Solbakken // Dissimilis

Built in 1929-1930

Tuberculosis was a very serious, contagious disease in the first half of the 1900s. Jens Hole, the head of Emma Hjorths Hjem (EHH) at the time, wanted to build a hospital for intellectually disabled patiens with tuberculosis. The chief medical officer in Oslo and physicians from across the nation supported this idea. After six years of applications and letters of recommendations, he was granted the funds to start building in 1929, and the building was completed in 1930. It never became a hospital, however. Hole found nurses to be too demanding and difficult to work with, so he didn’t hire anyone. The building was used to house 72 residents, some ill, some healthy. There was a mortuary in the basement, and it was not unusual to have two or even three dead bodies in there at a time. 

In 1947, the head physician at Tokerudhjemmet, Dr. Ole B. Munch, converted the building to a ward for young children. This was likely due to 21 war children being transferred from Godthåb rekreasjonshjem in Bærum to EHH that year. The building was later renamed Solbakken, with a residential section on the ground floor, outpatient/residential sections on the second floor, and offices on the third floor.  

When Emma Hjorths Hjem closed in 1996, Dissimilis, a culture and competence centre for people with intellectual disabilities, moved in. They still operate out of this building.  

“The vestibule of Hell” in “this Sodom”  

Excerpt from Om hundre år er allting glemt? Emma Hjorths Hjems historie 1898-1998 (1998) by Halvor Fjermeros, p. 46. 

"Haldis Siland started working as a carer at Tokerudhjemmet at age 22 in 1946. I spoke to her in the autumn of 1996. She and a friend from their home town Stavanger started working there at the same time, and when the latter quit after just a few weeks, she left with these parting words: “Are you going to keep working here in this Sodom!?” Haldis Siland started working in the home for young children, the former nursing home, which at the time had eight patients per room and 24 children on each floor, for a total of 50 patients in the same ward. Working hours were 7 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon, with a short break in the middle of the day, but they often worked non-stop for 10 hours. Each carer was responsible for attending to all eight children in one room, as well as for cleaning the floor and doing the laundry. “For Christmas 1946, we got packages of clothes for the children from America,” Haldis Siland remembered. She lived in an attic room at the girl’s ward for the first two years. “It was a noisy place to live, for sure,” she remembered.  

A few years later, in 1953, Lilly Clausen started working as a carer in the home for young children. In an interview carried out in the winter of 1998, she told me that on the night shift, she was responsible for 38–40 children between the ages of six months and 8–10 years, some with major disabilities. “Did you have to change nappies on all of them?” I asked. “Did you say nappies? We had torn sheets and rags, which had to be rinsed clean of pee and hung on the radiators, so they would be dry and ready for use again in the morning. There wasn’t any plastic on the outside of these nappies, so everything went straight through. And we had limited clothes for the children, too.” (...) The more intensive nappy cleaning took place in the basement underneath the boys’ home, Clausen remembered, and they brought the nappies there every morning. The place was called “Oppskyllinga” – the rinse-out – and the nappies were rinsed clean of the majority of the faeces. “When I opened the door in there the first time, the stench overwhelmed me, and I could not help but exclaim to the one I was with: ‘This must truly be the vestibule of Hell!’”  

Behind Solbakken in around 1942. The walls were reinforced due to the possibility of an attack.

Source: Emma Hjorth museum

Østre – Work ward for women

Built before 1915 – later demolished.

This building was part of Østre Tokerud, a farm Mrs. Emma Hjorth bought in 1903 and where she founded Fru Hjorths Pleie- og Arbeidshjem for Aandssvake, later renamed Emma Hjorths Hjem. It was located approximately where the upper part of the "80-man facility" would later be built (what is currently Skaret/Berget/Kastet/Juvet). Mrs. Emma Hjorth used it as a ward for female work trainees, and it was home to 10 girls. 

The exhibit at the Emma Hjorth museum includes drawings made by a man who stayed there in 1965. 

It is not clear when the building was demolished.    

Working students. Picture from Emma Hjorth's 5-year report from 1915.

Source: Emma Hjorth museum

Girls’ ward

Built in 1910 - later demolished

This building was built next to the accounting building, in the road that is currently called Tokerudkollen. The architect was Emma Hjorth’s husband, Ingvar Magnus Olsen Hjorth, and it was built in 1910. 

When the State assumed control over the operation of Fru Hjorths Pleie- og Arbeidshjem for Aandssvake in 1915, the girls’ ward became over-crowded, just like all the other wards. In order to increase capacity, the head of the institution at the time, Jens Hole, got permission to add a storey in 1927. 

The girls’ ward was home to both children and adult women. The building was demolished in 1970.   

Condemnable conditions 

Jostein Nyhamar, a reporter for Aftenposten, voiced strong criticism of the care home (at the time called Tokerud åndssvakehjem) in 1947. Below is an excerpt from his article:  

“The girls’ ward has 30 beds in one room with a floor area of just over 100 sq. metres, and this room is not among those that are most over-crowded! The same ward has one bathroom for 93 people. The majority of the mentally deficient are not clean and are unable to see to even the most basic personal hygiene on their own. The 7 nurses on the ward work as hard as they can, but it goes without saying that they cannot keep the patients clean with only one bathroom!” (Click here for the full article (in Norwegian)). 

The Girls' ward, around 1947.

Source: Emma Hjorth museum

Accounting building

Built in 1910 - later demolished

The architect behind the accounting building was Emma Hjorth’s husband, Ingvar Magnus Olsen Hjorth, and it was built in 1910. It included staff accommodation, kitchen, canteen, meeting room and offices until 1978, when a new kitchen and canteen was built. In Mrs. Emma Hjorth’s day, there were two dining rooms in the house, one for women and one for men. The building eventually became very run-down and was sadly demolished in 1989.  

Steam cooking in the accounting building around 1915. 

Source: Emma Hjorth museum

Emma Hjorth museum // Gamle Drengestua

Visit the Emma Hjorth museum if you want to read more about the institution’s history and see more photos!


The building was likely built around 1850, or a few years later (as estimated by those who renovated the building in 1998). It is the only building left standing from the original Tokerud farm, which Mrs. Emma Hjorth bought in 1903 to found her care home for the “mentally deficient”. The original name for the building is Drengestua — the “farmhand house” — so named because it was where the farmhands slept in the past. When Mrs. Emma Hjorth acquired the farm, it was turned into staff accommodation, and it served this purpose until after World War II. After the war, it was a workshop until 1979, when a new, modern workshop was built. 


For nearly 20 years, the building became more and more derelict as a dumping ground for old junk, until it was restored when the decision to establish a museum was made in 1996. On the 100th anniversary of the founding of Fru Hjorths Pleie- og Arbeidshjem for Aandssvake — on 12 November 1998 — the Emma Hjorth museum opened. 

The Emma Hjorth museum now has a permanent exhibit. It presents an interesting part of our social policy history, with a particular focus on the pre-war period. The museum also includes newspaper clippings and a small library for use in studies or other research activities. 


The Emma Hjorth museum is part of the regional activity centre REGA, which currently comprises Emma Gjestehus, Emma Sansehus, Emma Friskhus, Emma Café and the Emma Hjorth Museum.  

As a result of the deinstitutionalization reform, REGS was established in the mid-1990s, to ensure that compliance with Mrs. Emma Hjorth’s requirement that the property would always be used for the benefit of people with intellectual disabilities. REGA aims to be a place where everyone feels welcome, regardless of functional ability. 

Source: Emma Hjorth museum

Grini farm // Women’s home

Buildings built before 1915 - all later demolished

The Grini farm in Vestre Bærum was the closest neighbour to the Tokerud farm. In the 1600s, this farm was part of the Nesøy Estate, owned by Knut Franzen and the Krefting family, in line with Tokerud. The Grini farm was eventually split up into several farmsteads, and from the 1700s, ownership of these farmsteads largely remained in families, passing from one generation to the next.  

The foundation Magdalenastiftelsen bought Søndre Grini in 1899, moving its operations out of Christiania (Oslo). The foundation opened Kvinnehjemmet på Grini — the Grini women’s home — on 26 June 1900, continuing their operation of an institution for “fallen” women who wanted to lead a moral life. Approx. 3000 women made this institution their home from its founding in 1859 until 1946. 

In 1946, the women’s home was acquired by the State and made part of Emma Hjorths Hjem (EHH). In the years immediately after World War II, the institution’s buildings were “patched up” and made habitable to some degree. The home’s recently appointed chief physician, Dr. Ole B. Munch, who was also a consultant to the State in matters concerning the mentally deficient, was, in addition to managing the operation of the home, also put in charge of preparing a national plan to promote better care for the mentally deficient.  

War children 

During and after World War II, there was much debate about what to do with children who had Norwegian mothers and German soldiers as fathers. This included both the children from the Lebensborn project and others. By 1946, most children had been placed in care, many with their own mothers/grandmothers, some had been sent to Germany, and others were adopted by families in Norway and Sweden. Some children, however, were difficult to place. The Godthåb rekreasjonshjem in Bærum, which was one of the places where these children were sent, still housed 21 children nobody wanted. They were all diagnosed as “mentally deficient” and transferred to EHH. The women’s home was expropriated by the State for this purpose. While the diagnosis may have been accurate for some of these children, not all of them had intellectual disabilities. One example is a boy who was just extremely cross-eyed. Unfortunately, there is limited information about what happened to some of the other children. Some were discharged relatively quickly, and some remained at EHH for a long time, until the institution closed in the 1990s. 

Source: Emma Hjorth museum

The laundry at the Women’s home Kvinnehjemmet, year unknown. Source: www.historier.no


Emma Hjorth (1858–1921)

Emma Hjorth was a pioneer in the care of intellectually disabled people, and in 1898, she established Norway’s first institution for the so-called “uneducable mentally deficient”, later known as Emma Hjorths Hjem. Emma made the uneducable and their families her life’s mission. With unwavering dedication and a passion for society’s weakest, she reformed Norway’s health care sector.

Lippestad and Hjorth families 

Emma Alethe Andreasdatter Lippestad was born on Søndre Leppestad in the Municipality of Hobøl in Østfold (see photo below) on 21 May 1858, as the sixth of seven siblings. The farm was of medium size, and the children worked on the farm alongside their parents, Andreas Lippestad and Gunnhild Johannesdatter.  

Little is known about Emma’s childhood, but the church record from her confirmation specifies that she was “highly knowledgeable and commendably studious”. She was a gifted girl and distinguished herself as the only one in her class earning such good marks. 

Emma’s eldest brother, Johan Anton Lippestad, was also a bright boy and first in line to inherit the farm. His dream was to get an education, however, and not to become a farmer. His father went to the dean and asked whether it was appropriate for a farmer to have “ambitions beyond his station”. The dean said no, but the community’s new parish clerk supported Johan and convinced his father to let him pursue an education. Johan trained as a teacher and found employment at Balchens Institutt for Døve (a school for the deaf), where Hans Hansen, another teacher, worked. In 1874, the two men founded Eftermiddagsskolen for Aandelig Abnorme Børn at Vestheim in Oslo. This became the first specialist school for children with intellectual disabilities in Norway. In 1878, their little school had expanded, and they split it up, each continuing on separately. Hansen cared for the boys and later acquired the Lindern farm, which he turned into a school for boys. Johan acquired the Thorshaug farm in Oslo and moved there with all the girls. The school was named the Thorshaug Institut for Aandelig Abnorme Pigebørn, later renamed Torshov skole and Torshov kompetansesenter. He ran the school until 1904, when he became the director of "Abnormskolevesenet", Norway’s national education programme for children with disabilities. 

Prior to 1874, no organized education or care was provided in Norway to so-called mentally deficient children, as they were called back then. In some cities, dedicated teachers provided some education to individual children. Most lived at home with their families, in the country some were at the mercy of charitable aid for the poor, and in larger cities some ended up in the almshouse. Some were probably also housed with mentally ill people. 

Johan’s choice of profession and field had a huge impact on the development of a field of care for the mentally deficient in Norway, and he also seems to have had a considerable influence on all of his siblings. Six of the seven Lippestad siblings would come to work with people with intellectual disabilities at Thorshaug. The Lippestad family therefore became hugely influential on the development of this entire care sector. 

The Thorshaug school became a family enterprise, including the Hjorth family. Since the very beginning, Jeanette Hjorth was a teacher at the school, and her sisters, Hilda and Alette, also worked there. Hilda later became the matron at Fru Hjorths Pleiehjem. Their brother was Ingvar Magnus Olsen Hjorth (1862–1927), an architect, who led the construction of the Thorshaug school and whom Emma married in 1890. Ingvar was a leading architect of his day, and he was awarded the Knight 1st Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olaf in 1908. He designed and built several of the buildings at Thorshaug, as well as at Fru Hjorths Pleiehjem, but these were unfortunately later demolished. 

Emma and Ingvar had a son, Gunnar, in 1896, who sadly passed away in 1926, only 29 years old. After completing his university entrance exams, he worked in his father’s architect firm for a while, but he went against his father’s wishes and became a painter. He studied at the Academy of Fine Art in Oslo and several years in Paris. He was frequently featured in the National Art Exhibition and also held a solo exhibition in oslo. Many of his paintings are owned by his son, architect Ola Petter Hjorth (b. 1921). Ola Petter has several children and grandchildren. 

Education and career 

In 1879, Emma completed the advanced teacher examinations in Kristiania (Oslo). She had acquired all the knowledge required on her own, because teacher education programmes did not admit women yet at that time. Later that year, she started working as a teacher at Thorshaug, a job she held until 1903, five years after opening her care home. In 1883, at the age of 25, she won a grant, which she used to go study abroad in America, where she spent a year in institutions for the mentally deficient in Philadelphia and Boston. Back then, America was very far away, and knowledge of foreign languages was usually limited. She must have been quite proficient in English in order to benefit from her stay, and she had to have been a quite courageous lady to embark on such a long journey by herself. She later made several study trips to Europe, including Germany in 1910, when she brought home a straitjacket that was “much more favourable” than what they had previously used. 

In 1892, a new law was enacted, regulating schools for children with physical and intellectual disabilities, which made it difficult for “uneducable mentally deficient” to enrol in school. As opposed to the other Nordic countries, Norway did not have any institutions for the uneducable at this time. There were no assistive measures, children and adults were locked up or hidden away, and the situation was dire for many families. Emma was passionate about improving the situation for the mentally deficient and their families, and she decided to found a home for the uneducable.  

She founded Fru Hjorths Pleie- og Arbeidshjem for Dannelsesudygtige Aanssvage, a “care and work home for the uneducable mentally deficient”, at Sjøvolden in Asker (see photo above) in 1898. She bought the property for NOK 8 000. After six months, she moved the home to Solvang in Asker, which she rented, and in 1903, she bought Tokerud farm in Bærum at a foreclosure auction for NOK 63,000. She moved 34 residents there. The institution remained here until it closed in 1996. 

Emma did not work in the care home herself. Instead, she remained head mistress at Thorshaug for another five years. Later, she kept an office in Oslo, where she managed the administration, raised funds and did the bookkeeping. 

Emma gifted the institution to the State in 1915, but stayed in touch with it through her work in the audit committee. The last years of her life, she dedicated to her work in the Oslo chapter of Hjemmenes Vel, an association for women and families. She was one of its directors, organized many courses for young women and was a well-respected person. 

A fundraising pioneer 

In 1897, Emma started fundraising to found her care home. Her first donor was Architect Barnholt, who donated 50 øre. Initially, she contacted a wide range of prominent men and asked for a letter of recommendation. In 1898/99, she organized the first big lottery: a tombola held on Stortorvet, Oslo’s grand plaza. The tombola went on for two months and brought in NOK 33,829.54. This was an enormous sum back then, when an annual salary was just a few hundred kroner. 

From then until 1914, she continued her fundraising work, organizing lotteries and concerts, securing endowments and applying for grants from various businesses and local and regional authorities. She wrote letters to select gentlemen and ladies asking for donations and contributions, including to every pastor’s wife in the country, imploring them to found women’s associations. In 1905, she applied to Norges Bank (Norway’s central bank), for a permit to “erect stands outside the bank during the royal procession”. She got her permit, erected the stands in 8 days, and “to a good outcome”. She likely raised funds by having spectators pay for a place in the stands. With these funds, she created “Dronning Mauds legat”, a trust bearing the name of Queen Maud. Unconfirmed sources say the Queen contributed NOK 800 to the trust. The intention of the trust was to cover the cost of accommodation for those who did not have any family or municipal support to pay for their stay at the care home. The funds raised were enough to acquire the properties in Asker and Bærum, restoration and construction, and the acquisition of furniture and fittings. Operational costs were covered by the fees paid by families or poor relief. In cases where neither the family nor local authorities could pay, the trust covered the cost of the stay for many. 

All in all, this speaks to the considerable effort, ingenuity and dedication of one powerful lady. She had to have been one of Norway’s most successful fundraisers through the ages. 

From success to criticism 

From reading about the care home when it was still owned by Emma, one gets the impression that the standards were high, for its day. The care regimen emphasized help with meals, all forms of punishment were prohibited (remember, this was the age of the cane), and “the staff’s first and last thought must always be the children’s good care and well-being.” Their clothes had to be in order, they could not go without shoe laces, and the children were not allowed to spend too long on the toilet. There are reports of trips, small parties, singing games, 17 May celebrations and Christmas celebrations. Mortality rates remained low, but compared to today’s standards, staffing levels were very low. All those who were able to use their hands for work were trained to work in the house or in the fields. Not all of the residents were useful, but that was not important. For those who were worst off, song and music were central activities. 

With modern eyes, it is difficult to know how good the care home was, especially because it was the only one of its kind in the entire country. From 1910 and in the years that followed, the home became the subject of much criticism in the press, especially in Socialdemokraten. Socialists in Parliament were the primary source of this criticism. They wanted the State to assume responsibility for the care of the disabled, and it would seem that they used Mrs. Hjorth’s Care Home as a tool to promote their agenda. At the same time, criticism was also directed at the home’s matron, Emma’s sister-in-law, Hilda Lied. She was accused of treating the residents badly, of not feeding them enough and withholding medical treatment. It is difficult to assess the content of this criticism today, but these complaints became a central argument in the politicians’ fight for public care. 

Emma had already said, back in 1907, that when her institution was large enough and well-managed enough, she would gift it to the State. She did not make an effort to defend herself against allegations, but the complaints against her and the care home were likely a contributing factor to her gifting it to the State as early as 1914. At the time, the care home consisted of 17 buildings, 20 hectares of fields, three large gardens and approx. 50 hectares of forests and grazing ground, with a total value of NOK 317,577.25. The mortgage on the property was NOK 21,000. 

On 1 July 1915, responsibility for the operation of the care home passed to the director of the national educational programme for children with disabilities. The home was now government property, but parents and local authorities still covered operational costs. Jens Hole was hired as the head of the home, a role he stayed in until 1946. The next 30 years would be characterized by poverty, decline, overcrowded buildings and an extremely high mortality rate. 

Emma had four conditions for turning her care home over to the State. The first condition was that “The above-specified property or monetary value in the event of a sale, must always be used for a care and work home for the mentally deficient”. The second condition was that the care home must always bear her name. For some time from 1948, the home was called Statens hjem for åndssvake, but it was later renamed Emma Hjorths Hjem, which it was called until it closed in 1996. These conditions had a huge impact through the years. 

In connection with her gift, Emma was awarded the King’s Medal of Merit in gold for her efforts. 

There is no doubt that Emma was an unusually hard-working and dedicated person, who had a considerable impact on society. A neighbourhood in Bærum now bears her name, and many Norwegians know her name, because the institution she founded became a cornerstone in the care for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Emma died on 2 July 1921, aged 63, of unknown causes. She was buried in Vestre gravlund in Oslo. 

Photo from www.lokalhistoriewiki.no

Source of information: Emma Hjorth museum

Jens Hole (1874–1975)

Mrs. Emma Hjorth gifted her care home to the State in 1915. The entire staff stayed on, but Jens Hole was appointed as the new head of the institution. With the exception of the last two years of the war, when a Nazi was appointed head, Hole remained in this position until 1946. He was trained as a deacon and had worked at a wide range of institutions. He was married, with three children. His son, Jens Jr., was born in 1921, and Mrs. Hole died just a few years later. Hole later remarried with a teacher.

Both verbal accounts and written sources indicate that Hole was a strong and, at times, controversial man. He had great ambitions to expand “Fru Hjorths Pleiehjem”, which it was called at the time, but he lacked the funds to do so. By accepting many residents, he brought in more funds, as they charged per person, but it also made the institution extremely over-crowded. In 1943, the number of residents increased to 360. In the large bedrooms, the beds were placed right next to each other, with headboards touching, and the residents had to climb over the footboard to get into bed. Only in rooms with patients who needed nursing care was there a gap, between every other bed. 

Due to his frugality over his 30-year career as head of the institution, Hole was given permission to expand the institution three times (he built a second storey on the Girls' ward in 1927, the Nursing home in 1930 and Borgen in 1934). He erected several buildings for staff accommodation, first Haugen in 1917, for himself and his family. In the 1930s, he also erected Utsikten, which became the institution’s assembly building. Before he retired, he secured a plot in the institution grounds, where he erected his private home, where he lived until his death in 1975.  

From approx. 1921 to 1936, the care home helped settle the Treasury’s deficit. The State drew up the budgets with a profit, so that the charges paid would cover more than the operation of the institution. For many years, the profit was approx. NOK 50,000, which was a lot back then. A supervisory committee appointed by the State monitored the accounts, care, nutrition and agricultural activities, as well as approved admissions and discharges, but the committee did not normally interfere with the institution’s operations. 

The campaign against tight budgets would come to characterize Hole’s time as head of the institution, but so did disease. Many types of diseases (such as the Spanish flu, typhoid and tuberculosis) ran rampant through the institution, and mortality rates sky-rocketed. Between 1915 and 1945, a total of approx. 1270 residents were admitted to the institution, and approx. 45 % of them died there. The average age of death was 22. The war, from 1940 to 1945, made the situation even worse. In addition, almost everything was scarce — clothing, nappies, bedding, blankets — and the houses and furniture was run-down. 

Hole’s time as head of the institution had several dark sides, but among the things he should be remembered for, is a statement he made in an interview with the Nazi-controlled local newspaper Asker og Bærums Budstikke from 18 January 1944: The reporter asks (echoing Nazi ideology) whether it would not be more humane to “eliminate such individuals who have no chance of healing and who lead lives often approaching that of animals”? Hole responds: “I have seen many examples of a higher power not forgetting about them. And I believe the power who has given humans life also should take it. We, as humans, should not interfere.”  

Excerpt from interview with Jens Hole Jr. in 1996: 

When Hole came to Emma Hjorth, there were high fences and closed gates. My father opened them.  Father believed these were Our Lord’s little ones, and he wanted their families to be able to visit any time. There were always new patients arriving, day and night, they came when they were able to find transportation. Most of them were accompanied by family members. Father welcomed them all. I often accompanied him, both night and day. Father was a sanguine man, he often cried with the family members. Parents loved their children every bit as much then as they do now. Family members were allowed into the bedrooms, father always said they should be able to see how their children are doing. We didn’t get many visitors. Some, of course, but many lived far away. It was a source of shame to have a mentally deficient child. 

The farm was run properly. Farm manager, 4 farm workers, always 4 horses, approx. 25 cows. Father built a modern pig enclosure, others came to see it. Delivered milk to the dairy every day. (…) 

Father was fired in ‘43, a Nazi was taking over. I don’t remember his name, I don’t think he was a doctor. After the liberation, father was asked to come back. He was over 70 at the time. He worked here until Munch took over (1946).  He and father knew each other, because Munch’s father was a pastor at Helgøya, where father was the head of a boys’ home. They were polar opposites. Father loved to work hard with his body, he built a path down to the hospital, with beautiful stairs, and Munch had it removed immediately.  Father had been given two granite columns from Johanneskirken in Oslo when it was demolished, and he had put them up as a gate, 60–70 cm apart and approx. 4 metres tall, with wrought-iron lamps at the top (...). Munch’s office was in the kitchen building. He ordered a man out to break them apart. He couldn’t, of course. They were torn out and left behind the barn, where they became overgrown. I got them to put up at Farris (JH Jr. was the director of Farris in Larvik for many years), but they did not fit in anywhere at Farris. I eventually gave them to somebody else, I don’t remember who, and I don’t know where they are. The relationship between father and Munch was not great, but it vastly improved in father’s last few years. (…) 

The institution’s budgets were prepared by the Ministry of Church and Education. An auditor from the ministry regularly came to perform his audits, a very solemn gentleman. When father went in to the ministry for meetings, he wore a morning coat and top hat, that was the style. Father would ride his bike to the station with the tails of his coat around his waist and the top hat on his head. The other children would tease me about it. When I complained to father, he said “It’s good for them to have something to laugh about.” 

Everyday life: The staff and farm workers ate separately. Father did prayers every morning in the kitchen for those who wanted to attend, especially the women. I played with the patients, just like I played with everyone else. There were some children staying at the hospital, but the ages varied considerably. (…) 

We celebrated every Christmas Eve, first in the wards, and then in the kitchen with the staff members who wanted to. On every 17 May, we decorated with flags, and the patients got new clothes. Everyone was allowed to walk/ride down to the road for an hour, to watch the cars and people. Once, there was lots of publicity in Budstikke, claiming that ordinary people should not have to suffer such spectacle, probably in 35 to 37. It was a terrible blow to my father. 

Women and men did not live together. It was a huge scandal when a baby was born. I don’t remember, it was not really spoken about, but I could not help but overhear. It was likely two who had managed to sneak into the woods. The story was covered up.  

The basement of the hospital had a really nice chapel, which had room for 3 coffins. I was allowed in there. I also attended funerals. Most were buried in the cemetery at Bryn, and not sent home. Transportation options were not good enough. The funerals were all ordinary, the coffin was lowered into individual graves. The funerals were lovely, with the pastor and somebody from here. I don’t know anything about if anybody attended to the graves. Family members sometimes came. Father was usually there. 

I don’t remember much about the health. Surprisingly many grew old here. Those who were able to walk, were outside a lot, and got a lot of fresh air. Some of them smoked, and a few residents wanted tobacco. Father sometimes gave them a cigar. For the patients to be allowed to come out and work was the best therapy. 

Source: Emma Hjorth museum

Ole B. Munch (1905-1996)

In the period 1946-1970, Emma Hjorths Hjem (EHH) was heavily influenced by Dr. Ole B. Munch, who became a central driving force in the effort to improve conditions for people with intellectual disabilities in Norway. He came to a run-down and over-crowded institution in 1946. It’s been rumoured that he toured the grounds with his wife and afterwards said: “No. I cannot assume this responsibility.” To which Mrs. Munch is alleged to have responded: “Perhaps this is your mission in life, Ole?” - and thus he made caring for people with intellectual disabilities his mission in life. In addition to his role as chief physician, he was appointed as consultant to the State in matters concerning the mentally deficient.

One year after his appointment, Munch and the rest of his family moved from Oslo to a freshly renovated chief physician’s residence. The home had previously been used as accommodation for the head of the Women’s home at Tokerud’s neighbouring farm, Grini. Munch worked at EHH until 1975, when he turned 70 years old. The physician’s residence was demolished when the housing development Hellesvingen was being built in the late 1960s.

Condemnable conditions 

Munch had an enormous mountain to climb when he took over. Each carer had 10–11 patients each to care for several times a day. Shifts often lasted from seven o’clock in the morning to eight o’clock at night as recently as 1962. 

Photos from the institution taken around the time Munch was appointed as the State’s chief physician, show considerable poverty. Two newspaper reports helped raise awareness, both among policy-makers and among the public. Egil Tresselt had a photographic report in Verdens Gang in 1946, and in 1947, reporter Jostein Nyhamar and a photographer from the picture magazine Aktuell, visited the institution and took disturbing photographs that were forwarded to the Parliamentary Social Affairs Committee. The committee visited the institution and later claimed it was worse than Auschwitz. 

Munch fought against constant budget cuts and time after time exceeded the budgets, hoping to be forgiven. He understood that the press was a key ally in uncovering the miserable conditions and open the eyes of policy-makers. In 1956, the Parliamentary Social Affairs Committee visited, and as Halvor Fjermeros wrote in Om hundre år er allting glemt? (p. 56): “Several committee members vomited and became physically ill from what they had seen. They had to lie down on sofas where someone had to attend to them. Munch loved this type of confrontation and triumphed over those who broke down.” Munch put the misery on display as a necessary strategy to get more funds.  

In one photo, printed in Aktuell in 1966, Munch poses with a woman bound by one leg, because they did not have enough staff to give her the care she needed. She was naked, because she constantly took her clothes off. Being as short-staffed as they were, the environment was not suitable for developing humane treatments. For that reason, many of the residents had to be put in solitary confinement or be tied up, so as to not hurt themselves or others. 

The press and charitable organizations put the conditions of people with intellectual disabilities on their agenda. From 1946 and well into the 1950s, there are many newspaper articles, letters to the editor and reports on this topic in newspapers nationwide. It took some time before changes were made, but throughout the post-war period, there were frequent reports, laws and reports to the Storting that promised and, in part, led to significant improvements in the care provided. EHH expanded, and all across the country, new institutions were founded, most of them by charitable organizations. 

Social educator education 

When Munch became chief physician at EHH in 1946, he quickly recognized the need for trained staff. Most of the staff had no formal training, although some were trained nurses. As early as 1947, he started providing short-term training courses for staff, and from 1948 or 1949, he accepted “students”, who spent a year completing courses and internships in the wards. In the 1950s, this education was expanded to a 2-year programme. In the mid-1950s, on the initiative of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Norwegian Municipal and Social College started providing short courses for staff in the care sector for the so-called "mentally deficient". Both the ministry and Samordningsrådet for Åndssvakeomsorgen, a coordinating council for the sector, appointed committees exploring the need for a dedicated education programme for those who would be working with this segment of the population. Munch was appointed to serve on both committees. One of the reasons for this development, was that policy-makers recognized that the nursing education did not meet all the needs of the institutions caring for the mentally deficient. Despite these reports, policy-makers waited until 1963 to address this issue. By then, Munch had already built a school at EHH and started a three-year education programme in 1961.  

School for the “mentally deficient” 

In 1959, Munch started working to give the mentally deficient an education, and his goal was that the right to an education would also apply to the mentally deficient. Munch fought and won. Emma Hjorth got a school. The institution's residents got to learn to read and write. Arts and crafts, song and music were also important factors. A recreation supervisor was hired around 1960, and in 1961, the school got its first teacher, a man by the name Helge Morset. The school at Emma Hjorth eventually became Bærum’s largest in terms of teachers. Not until 1 January 1976 did Parliament decide that everyone had the same right to education, regardless of ability. The photo below, from the 1970s, shows Munch with residents in EHH’s former workshop.  

Big plans 

From the beginning, Munch was heavily influenced by the Danish approach to caring for the mentally deficient. This included large, well-organized institutions. The residents were divided into groups based on their level of functional ability, and the institutions were organized so that each group lived in separate sections. All of the residents’ needs were met within the gates of the institution: housing, school, work, recreation, as well as a wide range of assistive and support services. Munch wanted to create a similar institution at EHH. He wanted to accommodate around 1000 residents. This figure varied some over the years. In order to achieve this, he wanted to incorporate the entire nearby hill, Tanumsåsen, and the plateau above it, into EHH. His plans had the support of the Directorate of Health, as represented by Chr. Lohne Knudsen, who was the State’s chief medical officer in psychiatry. It would appear that the entire professional health and care services sector viewed this as the best way to organize care. The first major resistance came from Bærum. Policy-makers, residents’ associations, other groups and passionate individuals strongly opposed the development of an institution of this scale in the municipality. The setting was not right. As time went on, the plans were also met with resistance from other parties, on different grounds. Centralization, especially as primary schools were concerned, did not always prove to be a success. In many countries, there was a broad public resistance to various types of centralization and large institutions. As concerned people with intellectual disabilities, this resistance largely came from parents, but some professionals also had reservations. The plans for a giant institution were never realized, and the number of residents never again reached the level it had been at during the war, when 360 residents lived at the institution. 

Munch continuously kept up to date on developments in the field, and he was open to trying out new theories. Within the institution, Munch was regarded as the authoritative patriarch, who watched over his children, young and old, at the home. He did not shy away from striking terror into his staff, and he demanded unwavering commitment to the best interests of the patients. He brought his ideas to fruition with an iron hand, and was equally unyielding in his dealings with both authorities and subordinates. He could also, at times, be seen as authoritarian. Many likely found him to be both brusque and capricious, but he was also down-to-earth, charming, critically innovative and progressive. The fact that we have since dismantled the system he built, does not make him any less of an innovator and reformer. His reforms were a critical building block for later changes. 

Source: Emma Hjorth museum og Halvor Fjermeros: Om hundre år er allting glemt? Emma Hjorths Hjems historie 1898-1998, 1998.