The history of Norwegian settlement in the United States has often been told through the eyes of prominent men, while the women are imagined in the form of O. E. Rølvaag’s fictionalized heroine Beret Holm, who made the best of life on the frontier but whose gaze seemed ever fixed on her long-lost home. The true picture is more complex. In an area spanning the Midwest and rural West and urban areas such as Seattle, Chicago, and Brooklyn, Norwegian American women found themselves in varied circumstances, ranging from factory worker to domestic, impoverished to leisured. Offering a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach, Norwegian American Women: Migration, Communities, and Identities considers the stories of this immigrant group through a gendered lens.
Nine noted scholars situate these women in the history, literature, politics, and culture of both their ancestral home and the new land, interpreting their multifarious lives and the communities they helped build. pieces on wide-ranging topics by Betty A. Bergland, Laurann Gilbertson, Karen v. Hansen, Lori Ann Lahlum, Ann M. Legreid, Odd S. Lovoll, Elisabeth Lønnå, David C.
Mauk, and Ingrid K. Urberg are bookended by Elizabeth Jameson’s lively foreword and Dina Tolfsby’s detailed bibliography, comprising a collection that enlightens at the same time that it inspires further investigations into the lives of women in Norwegian America.
Betty A. Bergland is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. Lori Ann Lahlum is associate professor of history at Minnesota State University, Mankato.