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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area

Oiva W.Saarinen

Publication Year: 1999

Where else can that well-known phrase be better applied than to a study of the Finns in Sudbury? “Rock” defines the physical reality of the Sudbury setting: rugged hills, mines, farms and forests set in the Precambrian Shield. “Hard” defines the human setting: Finnish immigrants having to contend with the problems and stresses of relocating to a new culture, with livelihoods that required great endurance as well as a tolerance for hazardous conditions.

Since 1883 Finnish immigrants in Sudbury, men and women alike, have striven to improve their lot through the options available to them. Despite great obstacles, the Finns never flagged in their unwavering fight for workers’ rights and the union movement. And as agricultural settlers, labour reformers, builders of churches, halls, saunas and athletic fields, Finns left an indelible imprint on the physical and human landscape. In the process they have played an integral part in the transformation of Sudbury from a small struggling rail town to its present role as regional capital of northwestern Ontario.

This penetrating study of the cultural geography of the Finns in the Sudbury region provides an international, national and local framework for analysis — a model for future studies of other cultural groups.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Map

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pp. v-viii

List of Tables, Figures, Maps, Aerial Photograph and Biographies

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

I would like at the outset to acknowledge the people who have contributed to the development of the field of Finnish immigration history. One advantage of working with Finnish historical geography is the fact that this ethnic group can lay claim to having one of the richest archival heritages...

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pp. 1-4

Why write a book on the Finns of the Sudbury area? There are several reasons. First, the story simply deserves to be told. Since 1883 Finns have played an integral part in the transformation of the Sudbury area from a rail town to its present-day role as the regional capital of northeastern...

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Chapter 1: Finnish Settlement in Canada

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pp. 5-28

An understanding of the evolution of Finnish settlement in the Sudbury area requires some reference to the development of the Finnish community in Canada. From a national perspective, immigration and ethnic diversity have always constituted important aspects of Canadian life; indeed, Canada has portrayed itself to the rest of the world as a model...

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Chapter II: Geographical Pattern of Finnish Settlement in the Sudbury Area

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pp. 29-108

This chapter examines the origins of Finnish settlement in the Sudbury area and illustrates how the Finns dispersed themselves into distinctive urban working-class "Finntowns" and agriculturally based "enclaves." Unfortunately, little census data are available regarding Finns...

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Chapter III: The Great Divide

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pp. 109-176

One of the most enduring themes pertaining to Finnish settlement in the Sudbury area and elsewhere in North America centres around its uniquely institutional character. As Krats has affirmed, "the study of Finnish immigrant institutions has become a dominant feature of that group's historiography."1 It is indisputable that Finns were active joiners, as...

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Chapter IV: Finns in the Workplace

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pp. 177-220

Finns were no exception to the immigrant axiom that they came to Canada as working people. For them, normal channels of capital accumulation, through inheritance of money and property, land ownership and credit resources, were cut off by the act of immigration to a new...

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Chapter V: Finnish Cultural Contributions to the Sudbury Area

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pp. 221-262

A clear indicator of the "associative spirit" within the Finnish community was the creation of a strong subculture linked to the physical, artistic and intellectual well-being of the immigrant group. This subculture served as a haven against a hostile new environment, and eased the painful transition of being uprooted from the old homeland. The most notable...

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Chapter VI: Conclusions and Retrospect

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pp. 263-278

This study has presented some of the broad features of the "Finnish factor," as it has affected Sudbury's historical and geographical development. Many of the essential qualities of the Finnish-Canadian experience in the Sudbury area have been defined. The main virtue shown by this work is that the Finnish immigrants who came here were full of energy and...


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pp. 279-300


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pp. 301-314


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pp. 315-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780889206229
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889203204

Page Count: 343
Publication Year: 1999