Nina Köpman—my Nina Köpman—is imaginary. But even her rudimentary story was repeated thousands of times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Irish girls, young women from Italy and Scandinavia, they came for many reasons. But marriage and opportunities for work were near the top of the list. The previous installment of Domestic Arrangements elicited a response from Joel Stromgren [Class of ’87], whose grandmother took much the same path as Nina—the real path represented multiple times in our own family narratives.
Ok, you made the mistake of opening the door in your “domestic arrangements” post:
My grandmother “far far” came to the U.S. At the age of 16, her older sister “Ina” had come a couple years earlier and found her way to Chicago. My grandmother, Margaretha, a.k.a. “Greta” who was a Swenson but became a Swanson at Ellis Island because they thought it sounded more American, followed her sister to Chicago, and worked as a maid on Michigan Avenue. Later she worked in a sweatshop sewing for twelve-hour shifts. She always retained her sewing ability, making my sister full snow suits that looked professional. She married my grandfather, who left Sweden to avoid conscription for WWI and worked his way thru Canada as a logger and carpenter. They met on the south side [of Chicago], and lived in Evergreen Park, where my father was born and raised. She continued her ridiculous work ethic running a bakery in the depression and raising chickens after their move to Minnesota for “retirement.”
Thanks, Joel, for sharing your own family’s story with us.