A surrogate mother of Luther College students (1865-1885)
J. Th. Ylvisaker, in an early history of Luther College, wrote, “A history of Luther College, no matter how brief, would be incomplete did it not make mention of Mrs. Diderikke Brandt.” Diderikke Otteson was born March 9, 1827 in Sande parish on the Christiana fjord in Norway. She was well-educated and traveled Europe extensively in her youth. In 1855, she married Nils O. Brandt and joined him in his pioneer ministry in America. They lived near Ixonia, Wisconsin, from 1856 to 1865.
The Brandts moved to Decorah in 1865, where Nils became a teacher and pastor at Luther College. Diderikke took it upon herself to become a surrogate mother to the college boys. She organized sewing circles to mend the students’ clothing, raised money for cash-poor students by preparing and selling communion wafers and proved an able hostess for college functions. Her Christmas parties and Sunday teas were times for the students to enjoy themselves, engage in polite conversation, and practice good manners. Diderikke Otteson Brandt fell ill in January of 1885, and passed away on January 21 of that year.
In appreciation of her contributions to Luther, the alumni association had her portrait painted by Herbjørn Gausta in 1883.