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Norwegian Immigration to the US

Norwegian emigration to North America began on July 4, 1825, with the sailing of the sloop Restauration from Stavanger bound for New York City. Fifty-two people were on board and 3 months later, on the ninth of October, they arrived in New York.

windjammer.painting.

This first group of Norwegian immigrants were Quakers, who felt discriminated against because of their religion. Religious persecution was but one of the reasons for emigration. Another one was poverty.

Between 1820 and 1925 as many as 860,000 Norwegians emigrated to the U.S. The early immigrants often came from farms and therefore they settled in rural areas in the Midwest. Thus the Norwegians became the most rural of any immigrant group arriving in America in the nineteenth century. These immigrants formed ethnic communities using the Norwegian language and establishing their own churches, schools, newspapers and journals. However, facing a new society, immigrants had to consider adjustments to be accepted as Americans.

Check your understanding:

  1. How many Norwegians emigrated to the U.S. between 1820 and 1925?
  2. Where did they mainly settle?
  3. How did they adjust to their new homeland?

Immigrant Story: Ida Hansen 1853-1938

In 1870 when Ida Jensen was seventeen years old, she emigrated from Ringsaker in Norway to Chicago together with her parents and two younger siblings. Five years later she married a Dane, Niels Frederick Hansen. Ida was an ambitious woman and started her own magazine for Scandinavian women in America. The journal was written in Norwegian and was titled Kvinden og Hjemmet – A Monthly Journal for the Scandinavian Women in America.

Can you imagine a journal published in Norwegian in America? Well, the journal was a great success and had a circulation of 83,000 in its peak years around 1907. Ida wrote that she wanted to give the Scandinavian-born women a journal, written in their own language, that gave them knowledge of what was required of those who settled and lived in America. And how did she do it...

  • by writing about American customs, holidays, cooking, fashion and needlework
  • by publishing letters from readers asking for advice about suitable husbands in a new country or warning others about the lurid dangers that faced innocent Scandinavian women in America
  • and by telling the readers where they could buy herring from Norway or get in touch with other Scandinavians.

Ida made a fortune on the journal and moved from Cedar Rapids in Iowa where the journal had its main office, to Oceanside in California. She hired a co-editor to take care of the journal. In California she built a beautiful mansion where she lived with her husband until she died in 1938. The journal ceased publishing in 1947.

In many ways Ida’s story is that of the American Dream, the idea that anything is possible if you just work hard. As a concept, the American Dream is an important part of American culture even today.

Writing Tasks:

  1. You are a 17 year old immigrant. You came to the U.S. 6 months ago. The year is 1905. Write a letter home explaining what has happened to you and how you have adjusted/not adjusted to your new homeland.
  2. Kvinden og Hjemmet has launched a recipe competition. Write down your favourite recipe from the old country. The recipe must be written in English and Norwegian and the ingredients must be adjusted to American standards.
  3. You subscribe to Kvinden og Hjemmet. Write a letter to the editor explaining what you would like to read about in this type of journal.

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