Born in 1858 near Oslo, Emma Alethe Andreasdatter Lippestad worked as a teacher at Thorshaug Institutt (Norway’s first school for mentally disabled children) under the supervision of her brother, Johan Anton Lippestad. She qualified as a teacher in 1879 and, after leaving the school in 1903, she dedicated the rest of her life to the care home for mentally disabled people. In 1881, a law was introduced to secure care for people with hearing, seeing and mild mental disabilities, but not for those with severe mental disabilities. With many individuals rejected, Hjorth formed the care home in 1898.

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