Henningsen, Agnes

(1868-1962)
   A Danish novelist and dramatist, Henningsen advocated both equality between men and women and the right for women to fully express themselves erotically. Her literary debut was the novel Glansbilleder (1899; Glossy Pictures), which together with her next novel, Strømmen (1899; The Current), argues that women need paid work. Polens Døtre (1901; The Daughters of Poland), which Henningsen wrote after a visit to Poland, was well received. It portrays two women who both love the same man, but their adherence to convention drives them to unhappiness and frigidity. Several other novels argued that male-dominated society naturally leads to frigidity and fear of sexuality in women. Frigidity was pretty much a taboo at the time, so Denmark's middle class did not appreciate Henningsen's works. This was especially true when she published the novels Den elskede Eva (1911; Beloved Eva) and Den store Kærlighed (1917; The Great Love), which cost Henningsen a governmental stipend.
   A trilogy consisting of Kærlighedens Aarstider (1927; Love's Seasons), Det rige Efteraar (1928; The Rich Autumn), and Den sidste Aften (1930; The Last Evening) offers a more optimistic view of the possibilities of women's happiness in love. Henningsen is still aware of the problems that society throws in the way of women who seek self-realization, however.
   Two of Henningsen's plays were published, Den Uovervindelige (1904; The Indomitable One) and Elskerinden (1906; The Mistress). The latter offers a frank portrait of the life of a mistress, for whom the man in her life means everything but who is regarded mostly as a plaything by him. Henningsen's most enduring literary work is her eight volumes of memoirs (1941-1955), which, in addition to offering her recollections of her life, also provide a survey of Danish social history, including that of women, during the author's lifetime.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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