The year was 1912 in the month of September, the first day of the sea journey to America for four sisters from Sweden on the SS Oscar II.
Rosali Magnhild F. born 1894, Fanny Rebeck F. born 1885, Wendla Dorothea F. born 1890 and Anna Eugenia F. born 1898 left their home near Stockholm, Sweden sailing to America for opportunities to work and one to sight see. Rosalie’s daughter Gunny talks about her mother’s journey, new life in Newark N.J. and the unforeseen hardship for Wendla. This story inspires new immigrants to learn the English language through their employment and church affiliation. Legal immigration in the early 1900’s through Ellis Island offered hope, a promise of employment and faith for the future. Photos that document immigrant’s sea journeys to America offer a vibrant look into the true courage of each passenger. It is not often you hear about the journey through a living direct descendant like Gunhild
(Gunny) C., currently age Ninety-Five. I asked Gunny’s permission to repeat something her mother Rosalie misinterpreted while learning the English language through her work experience. The story is brief, but worth sharing because you might encounter an immigrant in the United States in current times that will appreciate the time you take to explain a term or English expression.
Rosali Magnhild’s position as a servant for an affluent family in Newark, N.J. provided her a room, food to eat, clothes and personal days to socialize and attend church. One day she was told there was a package to be delivered from #LordandTaylor and she thought it meant God and the Tailor. Well, certainly God was not going to come to the door with the Tailor as she listened to her inner #Swedish (first language) voice saying, ” Gud och Skradaren”.
Her life was enriched by the kindness she felt from the family that employed her. The culture she experienced gave her a lifestyle that would one day allow her to meet and fall in love with another immigrant from Sweden at church. Gunny said that most immigrants found acceptance in church where their first language was spoken and worship from the heart was effortless. In Rosali’s case, a pastor from Sweden immigrated to America and founded a Swedish Baptist Church in Newark, NJ that was their home away from home.
You will sense my compassion coming through in these stories describing hardships faced by immigrants. Rosali’s sister Wendla traveled to America temporarily as she was engaged to be married in Sweden. Sadly, she died of influenza, never to return to the homeland.
I “drink” in the presence of my friend Gunny. Her hospitality is a reflection of what her mother taught her. I know to be great in God’s kingdom is to be a servant of all. When we serve others our lives are rich. Gunny loves her God and loves her Mother’s homeland of Sweden; treasuring the memories while serving her Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberries on her Mother’s English China.
Take time to hear the stories behind your family heirlooms. They undoubtedly hold a memory that can be unlocked because you asked.
Footnote: While reading the above to Gunny she commented, “The word immigrant has a different meaning today. We need immigrants in the United States of America. We encourage immigration because it enriches their lives. America was a wonderful place to go.” One should be careful to group all immigrants with a negative connotation. Celebrate Independence Day with these stories in mind.