How Far Would You Travel With Your Sisters?

May 20, 2010

So, I’m wondering if my three sisters and I could sail an ocean together by steamship? Could we traverse half a continent by train? How long before they were so sick of me, they’d throw me overboard?

In 1892, my great-grandmother, Sophia Lindahl, and her three sisters did just that (minus throwing anyone overboard). They left their homeland in Sweden and traveled to America. They left behind their parents, their brothers and sisters, and the familiar life they’d known all of their 20-some years.

They left, just the four of them, together.

Eivor Lindahl Schutz is a descendent of those they left behind in Sweden. In my last correspondence with her, she still lived in Sweden. In fact, she owned the very farm where the Lindahl sisters grew up.

Eivor has a picture of the four sisters and, being a journalist, wrote a story about them. Here it is, as she translates from her original Swedish to English.

The Girls from Västra Harg Who Sought Prosperity in West

In the photo album my grandmother left I found a photo of four sisters Lindahl who left their native place during the later part of the 19th century to seek prosperity in USA. In reality they were seven sisters, but all did not travel at the same time. It was usual that the elder ones traveled first and then through letters and encouragement enticed sisters and friends to follow.

The photo is taken during the first time out there, that indicates expecially the youngest sister’s appearance. Dressed up and serious, dressed in exactly the same frocks, a photographer in Walnut Street in Des Moines, Iowa, immortalized the four sisters. This photo was sent as a greeting to father and mother in the old country. With this photo they wanted tell that they were doing well and took care of each other. Certainly letters came perhaps with a dollar or two but the sisters never came back.

It must have been an enormous blood-letting in the life of family Lindahl, despite a big family of children. I only can have a feeling of all the tears that the miserable mother shed over her seven lost girls. About their destinies and lives we hardly know anything today, but htanks to Rune Wikell list in his book (“I Minnen Bevarat”) over the emigrants from Västra Harg their names are known.

The last sister passed away unmarried in about 1950, that is on the whole all we know. Their life and deed among many other emigrants founded the powerful USA.

But I feel the wing-stroke of history when I think about that they have romped and played on the same hills and stones as I have. Judge of my joy when I find that somebody with a neat writing has written the name “Sofi” on the photo, perhaps herself. Soon the photo gets a more personal impression. None now living in Sweden has seen the sisters Lindahl in real life. One more generation and nobody should have known who the photo represented. But now I know that the name of the girl at the front, to the left, was Sofi and with a little detective work I will starting with this be able to follow up the names of the other girls. Hundred years has passed since the photo was taken and perhaps I may, in spite of that, name the girls who were my grandfather’s sisters, thanks to a name on the back of a photo.

—Eivor Lindahl Schutz
translated from “Östgöta Correspondenten” February 24, 1984

The sisters, pictured above, are Alida Lindahl Johnson (upper left), Amalia Lindahl Anderson (upper right), Sophia Lindahl Larson (lower left) and Ella Lindahl Fristrom.

Three years after she came to America, Sophia married Carl Larson. George (Ruth’s husband) is one of her children.


3 Responses to “How Far Would You Travel With Your Sisters?”

  1. Bethany Says:

    This is so fascinating to me!! It’s kind of strange to think we have relatives in Sweden I know absolutely nothing about.

  2. Ann Says:

    They look like teenagers. What a brave bunch of girls, to go all that way at that age!

    Not many people I know would take a trip knowing they probably could not go back home.

    Good for the Lindahl girls!

  3. Terri Says:

    Shades of Abraham and Sarah…
    To answer your question Di, “With you, I’d go anywhere!”

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