As I have grown older, the stories of my ancestors have grown increasingly of interest to me. And most especially of the women that have gone before me, living their lives, caring for their children, making their piece of the world softer and more beautiful in small or large ways.
I am blessed to have people on both sides of my family tree that have compiled many countless hours worth of information from which I can glimpse traces of who they were, these people from whom I am made. I hope to continue their work, carrying the torch forward so that generations that follow me can also know a little about the people from which they are made.
Therefore, I have endeavored to create a series of birth samplers honoring my Great-Grandmothers. The birth samplers will be released one at a time over a four month period of time, the first having been released last month, the second will be released tomorrow. But before the unveiling of the next sampler design, I wanted to share a little with you about the woman for whom I have made it.
Johanne Marie Haugen was born in 1881 in Norway, the second of 12 children. After finishing the required 7 years of school at the age of 14, she was sent to Bergen as a house maid in the home of her great uncle. She received little more than room and board, and was expected to send any extra home to her family.
During the 20 years that she lived in Bergen, she worked as a nurse maid and cook in homes of business people. She had many friends and was active in support of missionary ministries and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
In 1915, at the age of 34, she met Olaus Kjosnes at the home of her cousin. He was on a 4 month visit from America, where he had immigrated in 1898. By the end of his visit, they were married, and 4 days later boarded a ship to America.
That first winter in her new home, there was snow 9 feet deep, more than she had ever seen in all her years in Norway.
In the Summer of 1916, the first of two sons was born, followed a few years later by a fall while hanging laundry, which resulted in the miscarriage of a daughter.
Johanne always planted a large garden, and canned fruit, vegetables and preserves for Winter use.
According to my Grandpa’s memoir (that is his handsome self in the photo above), she often worked late into the evening sewing, patching, or ironing clothes, and sang a lot as she worked around the house. She was a good communicator and central figure in family discussions. She had a lot of compassion and always put her family ahead of her own needs. She was a good story teller who never lost her love for her home country, keeping a subscription to 2 Norwegian newspapers and faithfully corresponding with friends and relatives.
She happily welcomed visits from grandchildren (that is my Mama and Uncle Don in the above photo), and often had a lump of sugar dunked in coffee to share with them (the origin of my coffee gene, I’m certain).
She died in 1968 at 88 years of age.