Dorothe Engelbretsdatter was born into a clergyman’s family in Bergen, where she grew up. She married the clergyman Ambrosius Hardenbeck in 1652 and had nine children, of which seven died young. When her husband also died in 1683, her two sons emigrated, and she lived alone for the next thirty-three years. Dorothe Engelbretsdatter’s relatives had good connections to Danish officials, who were instrumental in ensuring that she was able to support herself partly through her writing.
In 1678 her collection of hymns Siælens Sang-Offer was published, which has since been reprinted about thirty times and in seven editions during her own lifetime. It was followed by the devotional book Taare-Offer, 1685. She struggled hard against pirated editions of her popular collection Siælens Sang-Offer, but did achieve lifelong tax exemption and had special rights (equivalent to today’s copyright) on the editions of Siælens Sang-Offer and Taare-Offer. Dorothe Engelbretsdatter’s writing, which was a defence of female creative power, gave rise to the first debate in Denmark and Norway about the ability of women to write literature.