Friday, March 07, 2008

March is Women's History Month

The purpose of Women's History Month is to increase consciousness and knowledge of women's history: to take one month of the year to remember the contributions of notable and ordinary women, in hopes that the day will soon come when it's impossible to teach or learn history without remembering these contributions. Women's History

The following poem was submitted for a 1926 "symposium of prose and poetry, newspaper articles, and biographies, contributed by one hundred prominent women" of Norwegian-American background. The collection was dedicated "to the women who have so unselfishly and gladly worked shoulder to shoulder with the men, contributing their full share to the accomplishment and prosperity that has resulted in America.

The editor of the collection, Alma A. Guttersen, wrote in her preface:

. . . Love of family and of home have ever been characteristics of the Norwegian women pioneers and out of this love of family and home grew the strength which was to result in great accomplishments. Others will remember, as do I, how we had barely the necessities of life, small rooms and few utensils, little money, no butter, eggs or cream except on holidays, very little schooling, amounting to about two months a year and necessitating in many cases, as in mine, a walk of three miles morning and evening . . . Mothers, living and working under these conditions, keeping sweet and growing in grace through all their hardships, have left a heritage to their sons and daughters far greater than any artist or statesman could have left.

The author of the prose poem, Frida Bue Homnes, lived in Crosby, North Dakota; a date for the poem is not given.

A Tale Told to a Child

By Frida Bue Homnes

Come to my knee, little daughter, and mother will tell you a story.
Tell of the beautiful lady, the one you see in the picture,
Tell how she left her home of comfort and culture in Norway.
Came as a pastor's bride across the billowy ocean.

She was a popular girl, lived in the capital city,
Had in her twenty years been given every advantage:
Suitors she had a-plenty, attracted alike by her spirit
And by her sparkling eyes, dark ringlets and rose-leaf complexion.

Hard were the ties to break, only her mother updheld her;
Striving to hold her back were friends of wealth and position;
But like her noble young bridegroom, she stifled the call of ambition,
Flattering offers at home, to follow the clear voice of duty.

So with her hand in his, trustfully facing the future,
Turned she away from the homeland and journeyed to far Minnesota,
Where in a pioneer log house for nine long months they were harbored,
Until a building of frame for a parsonage could be erected.

She with her dainty things of scallops and broidered eyelets,
Dresses of wool and silk,, her egg-shell china and silver,
Moved with the farmers' wives in their shawls and their shaker bonnets,
Winsome, sweet and content as though she had always lived there.

Crude was her home at first, the furnishings hardly in keeping
With ebony candelabra and "Brochene Hals" piano
Brought from her father's house-but she covered all flaws with her sunshine,
Captured all hearts by her pluck, sound sense and unfailing good spirits.

Three and thirty the years she spent in this place with her husband,
Saw how his labors were crowned and helped to success his endeavors-
Organized "Ladies' Aids" and taught the women to manage,
Tactfully all the while keeping herself in the background.

Opened her heart and home to children needing instruction
e'er they could be confirmed. With her babe in her arms she taught them,
Aiding their simple minds to grasp the truths of salvation.
More than a score in all were helped by her in this manner.

Gathered the young folks about her and joined in their innocent pastimes;
Fostered a love of music and, being a reader of merit,
Brought young and old 'neath her spell by reading aloud for their pleasure,
Leading many a household to practise this art by its fireside.

Immigrant young people, too, in number more than a dozen
Found on their first arrival her home a harbor and refuge
Where they could get their bearings, were helped to work or to schooling,
Helped to American views and loyal love for our country.

Patiently through it all skimping, saving and stretching-
Father must have his books, the children their music and schooling.
Seven grew up of the twelve, all seven were helped through college,
Lived to lead useful lives, a credit to home and to parents.

Most of what mother has told is beyond your grasp yet, my Baby,
Later you'll understand; but this much I'm sure you can fathom:
She was a beautiful lady, gentle, sweet-faced and smiling,
Who always did things for others, and therefore, you see, they all loved her.

She is no longer here, but lives with the angels in Heaven.
And 'tis my constant prayer as I strive to walk in her footsteps,
Falling short all the shile, that you may grow to be like her;
Be like your grandmother, sweet, for she is the theme of my story.

Source: Guttersen, Alma A., editor. Souvenir: Norse-American Women, 1825-1925 (Minneapolis, Minn: The Lutheran Free Church Publishing Co.), 1926.

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