Tove Foth Barfod Ott Oral History Interview, 1981  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Ott, Tove Foth Barfod
1981 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
2 compact discs
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Tove Foth Barfod Ott, a Danish immigrant.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 253-535-7586
Fax: 253-535-7315
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The oral history collection is open to all users.

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Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Tove Ott was born on June 25, 1896 in Sønderholm, Jylland, Denmark to Trenton Barfod and Emily Foth. Her father was a minister in a small town called Jølunde, which is located outside of Copenhagen, and Tove had three older siblings: Volner, Kaj, and Louise Johanna. In 1916, Tove married Mr. Peterson and a year later, had her daughter Gertrude. Shortly after Gertrude's birth, Tove's husband died of heart failure. To support herself, Tove worked at an establishment similar to Western Union, sorting telegrams. At work, Tove became friends with a woman named Annie (Kolten) Newman. Annie immigrated to the United States in 1921 and encouraged Tove to do the same. Tove came two years later, leaving Gertrude with her sister in Denmark. Tove's first job in America was as a babysitter, and in April 1924, Annie informed her of a job opening at a boys' school in Palo Alto, CA. Tove got the job and started work immediately. In May, she met her husband, Minet William Ott, and was married in March of 1925. Two years later, Tove sent for Gertrude. Gertrude was ten and a half at the time and learned English quickly. Tove has not been actively involved in church in the United States but does belong to the Danish Sisterhood in San Francisco, a Senior Citizens group in Burlingame, and a civic group. She has returned to Denmark in 1936 and 1969 and still uses Danish when she writes to her relatives there. Tove is very proud of her heritage.


Full Name: Tove Barfod Ott. Maiden Name: Tove Barfod. Father: Trenton Barfod. Mother: Emily Foth. Brothers and Sisters: Volner Barfod, Kaj Barfod, Louise Johanna Barfod. Spouse: Mr. Peterson, Minet William Ott. Children: Gertrude Barfod Peterson.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Tove Ott, January 1981, in Burlingame, CA by Scott Lawley, a Pacific Lutheran University student and Tove's grandson. It provides information about family background, emigration, marriage, employment, community involvement, and Danish heritage. The interview was conducted in English.

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Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The partial interview transcription highlights important aspects of the interview. Numbers may be used as guides to important subjects. Two numbers separated by a slash indicate that the first number is for cassette and the second for CD.

Container(s) Description
48, side 1 015/08: PERSONAL BACKGROUND
Born with the name Tove Foth Barfod. She married a Mr. Peterson who died and later she married Mr. Ott. Tove was born 25 June 1896 in Sønderholm, Jylland, Denmark, which is near Aalborg.PARENTS: Mother's name was Emily and her father was Trenton. Her father was a minister in a small town outside of Copenhagen. This town is called Jølunde, which is not too far from Frederiksborg castle, Roskilde, Denmark, and Landskrona, Sweden. She talks about her father's characteristics. Her mother played the piano.
48, side 1 106/09: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Two boys and two girls in the family. Her oldest brother is Volner, then Kaj, Louise Johanna and Tove, the youngest.
He became the president of the Cryolite mining company. She doesn't remember the rest of the family.
48, side 1 145: EMIGRATION
Traveled alone on a Danish ship. They left from Copenhagen, Denmark to New York. Tove was married in 1916, had a child in 1917 and then Mr. Peterson died of heart failure.
Pretty good. Employed at a place like Western Union in Copenhagen where she sorted telegrams. Her daughter stayed with an uncle while she was working in Copenhagen. She had a friend Annie (Kolten) Newman(?) who she worked with who came to America in 1921. She encouraged Tove to emigrate.
48, side 1 241: ARRIVAL IN AMERICA
Sponsors met her at the ship. They were some relatives of her brother-in-law. Tove left in 1923 and left her daughter with her sister. Annie, her friend, had traveled from New York to Chicago, Illinois. Tove spent six weeks in New York. She had left Denmark on June 14, 1923. The trip took eleven days.
Knew she had to do something to make a life for herself.
48, side 1 281/11: KEEPSAKES
Books and a few personal things.
48, side 1 295:
Sent for her daughter in 1927 to come to the US. Her daughter was 10 1/2 at the time.
48, side 1 303: TRIP OVER
All kinds of entertainment. Met many fellow passengers. No real problems. Got along well with her sponsor family.
48, side 1 326: FIRST JOB IN THE U.S.
Babysitting from August to March. Began to pick up English on the job.
48, side 1 340: ON TO CALIFORNIA IN APRIL OF 1924
Her friend Annie wired her and told her of a job opening at a boys school in Palo Alto, California. She traveled there by train.
Started work immediately. Lived at the school. Made good friends.
48, side 1 370: CITIZENSHIP
Had to have two witnesses (see counter I-410).
48, side 1 377: LEARNING ENGLISH
Picked it up pretty fast, kind of tough at first. She tells a story about working New York and the language problems she had and understanding what time to come back to work.
The beauty, took a few trips around the country.
48, side 1 410: CITIZENSHIP 1926
Took classes. Had witnesses. Answered questions (see counter I-370). This was in San Francisco, California.
48, side 1 419: MEETING HUSBAND
Met him through Annie and Annie's sister. She tells the story about these sisters' immigration. Met husband in May of 1924 they were married in March of 1925. His name is Minet William Ott. He was from Illinois. He was employed at Western Union.
48, side 2 028/13: CHILDREN
(Note: side 1 stops in the middle of the tape and side 2 starts in the middle of the tape.)Gertrude came to America when she was 10 1/2. She didn't know any English but she learned very quickly and liked it here. Gertrude worked in a store for awhile, then babysitting in a doctor's home in San Francisco. She became interested in nursing and later graduated from St. Luke's. Gertrude met her husband in Spokane. She was in the service then.
48, side 2 150: GRANDCHILDREN
One is a student at Pacific Lutheran University.
48, side 2 160/01: VALUE SYSTEM
U.S. vs. Denmark, no real difference. Talks about discipline in the home. Minet worked at Western Union until he retired in about 1963.
48, side 2 195: EMPLOYMENT
Worked some while married cleaning houses. The Scandinavians had a good reputation as being good workers.
48, side 2 232:
Who had it easier men or women?: The men had trades and the women didn't therefore it was harder for them to find work.
48, side 2 241: MEDICAL CARE IN DENMARK vs. THE U.S.
In Denmark, you have to pay so much a year, i.e. Medicare. Talks about the hospital care and getting their tonsils out.
48, side 2 287/02: CHRISTMAS EVE
(Denmark and US) Started by going to church and then came home to dinner. They had rice pudding complete with a hidden almond. Decorating the Christmas tree. Church Christmas Day and the day after. It was the same way for Easter. Tove feels that Christmas lasts until after New Years.
48, side 2 321: CHURCH PLAYED A BIG PART
Not active in the church today. She could never get used to church in the US.
48, side 2 361/03: ORGANIZATIONS
Belongs to the Danish Sisterhood in San Francisco. She joined because of the sick benefits in 1925. She also belongs to a Senior Citizens group in Burlingame, California. She belongs to another civic group where she visits an older person every week and they send out Christmas cards to those who are lonely.
48, side 2 417/04: TRIPS TO DENMARK
Went in 1936 and 1969. She talks about the conditions in 1936 when prices were going up and there was the fear of war. There was no mail in or out during the war. Her father died during the war. In 1969 she visited relatives and toured museums. She talks a little bit about the fact that they were modernizing in Denmark. She keeps in touch with relatives in Denmark by mail.
Important, proud of being born in Denmark.
48, side 2 479:
Uses Danish when she writes to relatives in Denmark. She still speaks Danish, she reads some Danish.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Christmas
  • Danes -- Ethnic identity
  • Danish-Americans--Interviews
  • Danish-Americans--Northwest,Pacific--Social life and customs
  • Denmark -- Social conditions -- 1945-
  • Naturalization
  • Personal Names :
  • Ott, Tove--Interviews (creator)
  • Foth, Emily
  • Newman, Annie Kolten
  • Peterson, Gertrude Barfod
  • Barfod, Trenton
  • Ott, Minet William
  • Corporate Names :
  • Danish Sisterhood of America (San Fransisco, Calif.)
  • Family Names :
  • Barford family
  • Foth family
  • Ott family
  • Peterson family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Burlingame (Calif.)
  • Jølunde (Denmark)
  • Palo Alto (Calif.)
  • Sønderholm (Jutland)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Domestics
  • Nurses