Swedish Women: Heritage and Influence
In honor of Women’s History Month, and Women Led Wednesday, and turning 50 ~ I will be sharing a series this month highlighting women who have influenced and inspired me, and what being a woman means to me as a small business owner. Although turning 50 comes with a lot of reflection, anxiety, and general freaking out ~ it is most definitely a milestone to be celebrated and shared. With all of the challenges women face in 2021, I do believe it is a great time to be a woman.
First trip to Sweden, 2008. Mollösund, Sweden (top). Riding Swedish bikes, of course, in Stockholm (bottom).
One of the questions I often get is if I am ‘Swedish’. The short answer is yes, but the long answer is much more interesting. In honor of Women's History Month, it seems fitting to delve a bit deeper into that question and discuss why it has relevance to äventyr.
First Trip to Europe, First Trip to Norway, 2001. Oslo, Norway.
I have mixed heritage (Swedish, Norwegian, English, German…), but most of my life I was a bit more in tune with my Norse side. In fact I went to a college where we were called “Norse”. When I went to Norway for the first time so many things ‘clicked’ for me and came into view, but there was so much more to be discovered.
Volunteering at the American Swedish Institute.
Although I grew up eating Swedish Meatballs at Christmas, for some reason we didn’t talk much about the ‘Swedishness’ of our family. Fast forward to 2017; I left my job and while I was trying to figure out what to do next ~ I started volunteering at the American Swedish Institute. It was here that the question ‘are you Swedish’ was often asked by visitors. It didn’t take me long to realize I might want to have a better answer to that question, and understanding of my Swedish Heritage.
Participating in 'Story Swap' at The American Swedish Institute. 2018
It was in that process of understanding that I realized so much of my family story, like many families who are descendants of immigrants, was lost. My family was no different than the thousands of immigrant families who have come to the US who wanted to quickly assimilate into their new home, only speaking English to their children and tucking the past squarely in the past.
THE MOMENT. Reviewing the The Social prototype that was 'the one!' in 2018 with Kathryn (owner of Winsome Goods).
Concurrently, I was beginning to formulate our business plan during my volunteer sessions. Both my Swedish Heritage, and my new business were coming into focus.
What I was able to find, mostly through conversations with my mother, was a story of strong women, who it was turning out I would have quite a bit in common with.
This is my great grandmother Amelia (aka Amelie ~ my favorite movie character!). Amelia was born in Blekinge Province Sweden. In 1895 Amelia emigrated to Michigan (Iron Mountain) at the age of 28, later settling in Cloquet, MN. Amelia and her then husband owned a tailoring business (making what would now be called ‘bespoke’ suits); they eventually divorced and Amelia took over the tailoring business.
I was finding this out just as I was starting my äventyr journey and it really clicked with me. Here was a strong woman who not only made a living from a textile-based business, but was also a smart independent business woman. Amelia owned several rental properties and even had stock in the local power company! Darn I wish I could have met her!
Grandma Ruth in her youth (top) and with Grandpa Harold (bottom).
My grandmother Ruth, Amelia’s daughter, was born in Iron Mountain Michigan and grew up in Cloquet, MN. Ruth must have had being a business owner in her blood ~ she eventually moved to Iowa with my grandfather to open/own a Ben Franklin store (which they operated until their retirement). I remember going to this store as a child and it amazes me now knowing how much work it must have been, and a risk, to have their own business and raise a family. Perhaps somewhere in those moments a seed was planted?
Mom as a girl (top). Mom at Fika Cafe (middle). Mom & me in AZ (bottom).
This is my mother, Jan, who was born in Cloquet to Grandma Ruth. My mother interestingly was a physical education teacher after college. Like textiles, and small business, I never thought much about my physical fitness (nor was I much interested in it) until adulthood. Again, another seed planted?...
Leaving Mill Valley, CA 2006 for Minneapolis with new dreams... (Dunker R.I.P. confused, but patiently waiting).
Additionally, maybe the willingness to leave one place for a new äventyr is also in my blood. I never hesitated to leave home after college and move far away in pursuit of my dreams (Colorado, California). And yet here I am, back in Minnesota, where in so many respects it all began and has come full circle .
New dreams being realized. Julmarknad at American Swedish Institute, 2019.
My search for learning more about my Swedish heritage not only informed the direction we would take our business in, but showed me that thanks to these women, taking risks and charting your own path comes with reward. I now know that one's heritage is worth celebrating and sharing, I only wish they had felt comfortable doing the same (the more things change...). Perhaps the äventyr was meant to be all along.
Thanks Great Grandma Amelia, Thanks Grandma Ruth, Thanks Mom! ~ Love, DeAnn