A good portion of the inner drive perseverance it took to keep striving ahead to complete my book, My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute was to prompt a movement to remember the role of women immigrants. The more research I did to find well documented stories describing in detail how women were heroic in stepping up supplying grit, gumption and resilience to save the day, especially when the going gets tough for her or her family-loved ones, -I did not find some.
Since sharing by book focused on sharing the valor of Swedish immigrant widow Grandma Maja toward her family as a warrior against the Depression I found scant mention of documented case studies. Why have the important heroic contributions of women been seriously neglected? Are there inspiring stories hidden away? Are these stories and memories ready to come out from hiding places and be shared?
This morning just such a tribute to a woman was related to me and I am delighted to share:
“I want you to know— we visited my grandfather’s home town, it felt the same, glad you were able to go home. my grandmother was brave, she was 23, 5 months pregnant with my dad, no English, and took the boat by herself to America and to KC hoping my grandfather would be there to greet her. They lived in a small apartment with my grandfather’s uncle until they could get a place of their own. My dad was born in that apartment and lived there for several years.”
Clearly, the writer above perceived what I call, “the call to adventure” Carrying a child she braved the ocean crossing in search of something that attracted her or her husband. In my case, Grandma Maja traveled to America and left behind wealth and status in Sweden accepting a fresh start having found unexpected romance. Together with her husband they invented and pursued their version of the Swedish American Dream. The focus was bringing children into the world fully intending to impart all of the culture and traditions and more preparing them well for happiness and a “good life.”
Come Hell or High Water Determination
My book about Grandma Maja uses the metaphor of, “logjams in the river of life “ as a metaphor to explain how she stood tall to overcome obstacles via gritty resourcefulness. Time and again she had to dig deep within to address problem situations. In her case, after the sudden death of her young husband it was, “do, or die” buck up or the family would drown in failure.
Maja knew intuitively or perhaps in her DNA, or perhaps learned from her role model mother or grandmothers, “it is truly up to women- to step up and do whatever it takes to achieve a contest, big or small”
Stories of pioneer women are inspiring as they confront the hard times, the challenges that involve life or death decisions calling forth extraordinary and sustained determination and refusal to give up or give in.
Humpty Dumpty Rescues?
What impressed me about Grandma Maja was her selfless focus. She took the given adversity challenges upon her shoulders and never once spoke of waiting for a rescue or rescuer.
I have always been struck by the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme we recite and teach children to recite. Poor incapable broken egg takes a fall and laments and despairs that no one will fix the situation.
Eleanor Roosevelt in her first book proclaims a message she must have taught as a home economics teacher: “it is up to women”. I doubt Grandma Maja read the book that advises how to run a household and thus reverse the Great Depression, one household/family at a time. I doubt Grandma Maja had time to hear any of the hundreds of radio broadcasts of Mrs Roosevelt cheerleading America women encouraging them to step up to the challenges each one might face.
What strikes me as strange and unsettling is that my research concluded that written history focuses on, “forgotten men” of the Great Depression. Their plight lifted up as poor victims who suffered humiliation of joblessness, the despair of hopelessness. In homes where a woman was present with an unemployed father-husband many women became unheralded hero breadwinners. Women had to fight hard to secure jobs as the jobs were to be reserved for men, heads of families.
Neither men, nor women and their gritty stories as immigrants facing extra burdens, challenges, or opportunities need be forgotten.
My goal of writing my Maja was to do my part to contribute a renaissance of attention to forgotten women who were scarred and ruined by extraordinary pain, stress and suffering as they toiled to survive hard times. Maja’s storytelling convinced me on my own that it would be sad if others could not see how impressive she was as a gritty warrior repeatedly standing up after being knocked down.
My hope now might be that others follow my example of not necessarily striving to write a perfect biography, family history, or memoir, but become motivated to start or continue taking action to leave behind something on paper that will last over time for generations to come.
Maja’s book is available now on Amazon Books.