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I Go to America

Swedish American Women and the Life of Mina Anderson

Joy K. Lintelman

Publication Year: 2009

Near the end of her life, Mina Anderson penned a lively memoir that helped Swedish novelist Vilhelm Moberg create "Kristina," the central female character of his beloved emigrant novels, a woman who constantly yearns for her homeland. But Mina's story was quite different. Showcasing her previously untranslated memoir, "I Go To America" traces Mina's trip across the Atlantic to Wisconsin and then the Twin Cities, where she worked as a domestic servant, and her move to rural Mille Lacs County, where she and her husband worked a farm, raised seven children, and contributed to rural Swedish community life. Mina herself writes about how grateful she was for the opportunity to be in America, where the pay was better, class differences were unconfining, and children--girls included--had the chance for a good education. In her own words, "I have never regretted that I left Sweden. I have had it better here." Author Joy Lintelman greatly expands upon Mina's memoir, detailing the social, cultural, and economic realities experienced by countless Swedish women of her station. Lintelman offers readers both an intimate portrait of Mina Anderson and a window into the lives of the nearly 250,000 young, single Swedish women who immigrated to America from 1881 to 1920 and whose courage, hard work, and pragmatism embody the American dream.

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

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pp. vii-viii

This project began one day in the summer of 1993 with a phone call to my husband from the kitchen of Fru T’s café in Växjö, Sweden. Barely able to contain my excitement, I shared with him how I had happened upon a fascinating memoir about a single Swedish immigrant woman named Mina Anderson. Her life story illustrated so many of the experiences of ...


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p. ix

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pp. 3-12

Go only if you will have things better .”1 Mina Anderson’s family gave her this advice in 1890 when she told them she planned to leave Sweden and emigrate to America. Mina was one of nearly a quarter-million young single women who left their Swedish homeland for the United States between 1881 and 1920.2 Perhaps recalling that early advice, she ...

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1. “I Grew Up on Simple Fare”

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pp. 13-38

In the forest, by a beautiful lake, lay the so-called castle. That was not its proper name, but it was called so since it was larger than the other crofter cottages. It was actually a place where old workers lived after they had worn themselves out working for the company and there was no room for them anywhere else.1 ...

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2. “So Tired of Hard Work and Disappointment”

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pp. 39-66

Now it was time for me, as for many others, to go out and earn my bread myself. I applied for a position as a nursemaid, but it was already taken. I then took a position as a farmer’s maid. I was of course only fifteen years old; it was hard work and I hadn’t learned so much of such work.1 I was ignorant about most of it but it didn’t take so long to learn. I had to get ...

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3. “I Go to America”

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pp. 67-91

Like so many others in the 1880s and 1890s when the immigrant stream to America was at its peak, I had long wished that I would be able to go but could never save enough of my small wages for a ticket. At that time it was hard for poor people in Sweden, and everyone who could possibly scrape together [enough money], or receive a ticket from anyone, went. ...

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4. “A Good Position”

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pp. 92-134

My relative was an older man who had never been married. He had worked in the forests in Norrland and saved a small amount, large enough for a ticket to America and to buy 40 acres of land near town. If he’d had sense enough to remain on that place he would with time have become a rich man, if he had been allowed to live. The area later became a part of ...

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5. “A Nice Little Nest”

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pp. 135-176

I was saving money to pay for a ticket and send for my sister. When she came I had just married, so I had a home in which to receive her. I had, after some time, met an orderly and kind man whom I learned to love and who gave me a home and his love. We were both alone, strangers in a strange land. . . . My husband was a tailor. First we lived in town ...

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6. “I Was Happy When I Heard Them Hammering”

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pp. 177-218

In 1895, the year after we arrived, many settlers came here. I was happy when I heard them hammering and pounding in the vicinity because then I knew that I would have neighbors. I used to walk across the forest in the direction where I heard they were building and introduce myself. I said I was happy we would be neighbors and bid them welcome. ...

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pp. 219-224

The evening of my life has so far been light. I have not been alone for such a long time! My husband died after a brief illness three years ago. It feels empty without him, but my children and grandchildren are all good to me, and I have a good life. Now that I have time to think, my thoughts often fly to the dear fatherland where I lived the days of my childhood and youth, and to friends who ...


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pp. 225-228


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pp. 229-268

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 269-284


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pp. 285-294

Illustration and map credits

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p. 294

E-ISBN-13: 9780873517621
E-ISBN-10: 0873517628
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873516365
Print-ISBN-10: 0873516362

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 45 b&w photos and illustrations, 5 maps
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 794700986
MUSE Marc Record: Download for I Go to America

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Subject Headings

  • Swedish American women -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Swedish American women -- Middle West -- Biography.
  • Women immigrants -- Middle West -- Biography.
  • Swedish American women -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Women pioneers -- Middle West -- Biography.
  • United States -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects -- History.
  • Halgren, Minnie, 1867-1955.
  • Sweden -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects -- History.
  • Swedish American women -- Biography.
  • Women immigrants -- United States -- Biography.
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