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Elisif Wessel

Updated: Apr 4

A group of children sit in the snow and smile shyly at the photographer. The photograph is taken in the Eastern Sami (NO: "Skoltesamene") winter place Øvre Skolteby on the Russian side of Pasvik in 1896 by Ellisif Wessel.

Ellisif Wessel is a much-discussed person in the history of the labor movement.

Pioneer of the labour movement, cultural journalist, author, editor and photographer. She came to Kirkenes at the age of 20, and lived here for the rest of her life.

Kirkenes June 4th 1899

She is also known for her humanitarian work for Russian refugees, as an active anti-militarist, and as a prominent representative of women's liberation.Her role in the labor and trade union movement development in Kirkenes and Northern Norway is significant. She actively participated in debates about social development and workers' rights at a time when the distinction between the working class and the official class were large, and there socialist ideology began to spread among the workers and intellectuals in several countries. Ellisif Wessel translated and helped spread socialist literature and writings via Kirkenes to the whole of Norway and also elsewhere in Europe. She was one who exposed herself to strong opposition from her own station in the search for truth and justice. Ellisif was in many ways an unorthodox woman of her time, she dedicated her life to the cause of the workers and the oppressed, even though she came from a civil servant family.

Ellisif Wessel was a remarkable woman who lived in Norway during the early 20th century. She was born in 1866 and grew up in a small town on the west coast of Norway. Despite the expectations of her time and place, she was determined to pursue a career as an artist.

Ellisif studied painting in Paris and Rome, where she was exposed to the latest trends in European art. She returned to Norway with a new vision for her work, one that would reflect her deep love for her homeland and its people.

Ellisif's art was heavily influenced by the rugged landscape of Norway's coast, with its towering mountains and rocky shores. She painted scenes of fishermen and farmers, capturing the hard work and resilience of the people who lived there.

But Ellisif was more than just an artist. She was also a passionate advocate for social justice, and she used her art to raise awareness of the struggles of working-class Norwegians. She painted scenes of poverty and injustice, shining a light on the inequalities that existed in her country. She started the union in Bjørnevatn iron ore mine, just 3 kilometres away from where You are standing now.

View of Kirkenes from the doctor's residence where the Wessel couple lived. This photo was taken by Ellisif Wessel in 1896

As she became more politically active, Ellisif's art became more explicitly political. She painted scenes of workers striking and protesting, and she became a vocal supporter of the labor movement.

Ellisif's activism made her a target of the authorities, and she was arrested several times for her political activities. But she refused to be silenced, and her art continued to inspire others to fight for justice and equality.

Cover of workers pamphlet written by Ellisif Wesselel

Sadly, Ellisif's life was cut short when she died in 1949, at the age of 83. But her legacy lives on, both in her art and in the struggles for social justice that she helped to inspire. Today, she is remembered as one of Norway's most important artists and political activists, a woman who used her talents to make the world a better place

The ice statue of Ellisif Wessel in the Snowhotel 365

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