Occupation Investigation - Margareta Maria Källman the Laundress

Many of the old Swedish parish records list an ancestors title or occupation.
The words are often confusing, antiquated and make little sense to me.
Now and again I like to investigate, do some research.
What is the meaning of my ancestors title or occupation?
How did he support and feed his family in his time?

Today I looked at the very difficult, hardscrabble, poorer than poor, life of my great aunt Margareta Maria Erikksson Källman. 

I look today at the family photos of the beautiful countryside of Sweden and hear of their now enviable welfare system and find it hard to believe that 100 years ago, life for our ancestors was not beautiful nor enviable on any level. The 100 year period from 1870 to 1970 turned Sweden from being one of the poorest countries in Europe into the fourth richest country in the world. 

My great uncle, Håkan Patrik Källman was the older brother of my grandfather Richard Severin Källman. Although from a very poor factory working family he must have had high hopes as he left for America in 1901 at the age of 21. He married Margareta Maria Erikksson in 1902. As she came from Örebro and he from Östergotland I am guessing he met her in the U.S.. Their first child, Arthur Patrik, was born in Joliet, Illinois in 1903. That promising beginning was overshadowed by his health. As his parents before him, Patrik had tuberculosis. He returned with his small family to Sweden in 1904. Patrik and Margareta had another son, Evert Håkon, in 1905. Their twins, Aina Maria and Erik Henrik were born in 1907. Erik was either stillborn or died shortly after birth, Aina lived only a few weeks. Son Evald Arthur was born in 1908. Eight months after Evald's birth Patrik succumbed to tuberculosis. Margareta was now alone to raise her three  boys. 

In the 1911 -1920 församlingbok of Mjölby, Östergötland, Sweden Margareta is recorded as "Backstugor och tomter", working as a "Tvätterska" or Laundress.

This is a picture of a typical Backstuga seen in southern Sweden. Many Backstuga's were just a single room cottage built on someone else's farm and they were often built into a hill because wood was expensive. Three wood walls and the back wall of dirt into the hill. A Torpare rented land with a lease agreement. Those in the backstuga's were called Backstugusittare and were totally dependant on the landowners whims, considered paupers. With no legal rights they could be thrown out at any time. They were exempt from taxes as these folks were the poorest of the poor. Sometimes the landlord would allow them a small plot to have a garden. Margareta had a small garden (och tomter)but she mainly supported herself and her boys by being a laundress.

Margareta  gave birth to daughter Valborg Maria Elisabeth in 1912. I blogged about her birth earlier in ELISABETH MARIE KÄLLMAN - I WONDER IF SHE KNEW?  Margareta gave birth again in 1916 to Georg Anton. That little guy, also noted as öakta or illegitimate, with no father listed, died after just a year. I do not for a minute believe that great aunt Margareta was so lonely for a man she went out looking to be intimate with anyone. No way. She was in a very tough situation. I don't think she ever would have wanted to bear a child to live in those harsh circumstances. It saddens me to even consider what her circumstances were, what she may have had to endure or deal with to provide anything at all for her children. The only welfare in Sweden at this time was through the church. Her illegitimate and unbaptised children?  Her children were totally without a future in early 20th century Sweden. 

The "Promise of America" was her salvation. In 1922 Arthur at 18, who had been born in the U.S., returned.  Margareta and Elisabeth followed him in September of 1923. Evert 18, and 15 year old brother Evald followed in December of 1923. My great aunt Tekla's husband, Richard Peterson, was listed on the ship manifest as their American contact.

The family left Chicago and ultimately settled in Minnesota. It would only be a guess but perhaps they left Chicago to protect their sister and mother? My Dad spoke of having cousins Arthur, Evald and Evert but never mentioned Elisabeth. Perhaps my very religious family in Chicago would have been a bit judgmental of Elisabeth's birth 4 years after the death of her "father"? Who knows? Again, just a thought.

Margareta lived to be 96 years old. How pleasant was her life in America? I don't know but I will bet you however that Margareta never again worked as a laundress. 

a strong woman and a survivor
my great Aunt, 
Margareta Maria Erikksson Källman
b. 16 July 1880 Örebro, Örebro, Sweden
d. 6 August 1976 Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota, USA

**1911 -1920 församlingbok of Mjölby, Östergötland, Sweden, Swedish birth/death records,
 Immigration Ship Manifests and Minnesota death records for each mentioned family member 
can be accessed on my family tree on Ancestry.com. See bottom of this webpage.**

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