My mother was not born in Sweden, yet she claimed to be a Swedish immigrant.
Delores Wittenstrom, eldest daughter of Maja Källgren Wittenstrom arrived in New York in 1933 on the M/S Kungsholm after a 10 day crossing of the Atlantic from Goteborg Sweden. She spoke only Swedish, she said, having forgotten how to speak English after living for a time in Sweden.
When my mother’s father died of a heart attack in Chicago, her mother (Maja) packed up the family and headed home to Sollefteå Sweden to grieve and figure out the rest of their lives.
As Grandma Maja and kids were arriving back in the US, the World’s Fair was staged. Seats on the train from New York to Chicago were hard to get. Their new life of fighting the Great Depression would take great resilience and teamwork.
First order of business for Maja was to find money. It was Depression time. People were out of work. Mortgages foreclosed. Maja had no job. But, she had a plan.
Maja converted upper bedrooms of the house to create a boarding house for two tenants. The house was paid for from life insurance.
Maja dusted off her nursing diploma from Sweden and went to work as a night nurse. She built a business of caring for wealthy Chicago families.
Each day she left her family in the charge of 8 year old Delores. Maja took a street car to her work site and worked all night, arriving back home exhausted.
Maja’s next task in the morning was to see that the children went off to school. She had the help of Swede neighbors, Svea and Axel Soderland.
So much of daily life became regular routines. The stress and strain on Maja must have weighed heavily. There was no escaping the 7 day responsibilities.
Photos like this one of happy children growing up with an overworked and stressed and strained mom, with no father present took guts. I am so proud of them.