Working Swedish Widow Mom-Chicago 1933

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.

Two widows in Sollefteå Sweden. Note my mother far right

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.

Wittenstrom Family Immigrants Arriving from Sweden 1933

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.

7836 South Yates Avenue Chicago Illinois home of the Maja Wittenstrom Family and New Boarding House on the Upper floor 1933

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.

Nurse training in Sweden. Unfortunately, no photos of Maja in nurse uniforms the US are available.

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.

Published by Donnie: An Admiring Grandson

Living an inspired life modeled after my Grandma Maja, who stepped up as a Swedish immigrant widow and mom of 3, facing America’s Great Depression while demonstrating uncommon grit and valor. I am determined to share her life lessons so she is no longer forgotten. I have a book to share and the reader will preview the entire story by visiting here. You are most welcome.

2 thoughts on “Working Swedish Widow Mom-Chicago 1933

  1. Your grandmother was a very brave woman to face the world alone with three children.I love your pictures of all of them. I wish I had pictures of my grandparents at work. My grandmother had 10 children. I would see them just at xmas when they all came back to Lincoln. After grandpa passed in the 60’s, we never saw the one from out of state anymore. They never kept in touch with each other. Now they are all gone. That is why it is so hard to find their children and talk to strangers who you don’t know, but are part of your families past. MArlene King


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