Emma Severine Mattson Oral History Interview, 1982  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Mattson, Emma Severine
1982 (inclusive)
2 file folder
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Emma Severine Mattson, a Norwegian 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.

Additional Reference Guides

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

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Emma Mattson was born on April 25, 1913 in Bergen, Norway. Her parents were Engel and Severine Bratten, and she was an only child. Engel was a farmer and fisherman, and Severine did housework. Emma was confirmed when she was fourteen years old, which was considered a time for great celebration, marking the division between childhood and adulthood. After her confirmation, Emma finished school and began doing housework. Emma's father had visited Washington and Montana, and in 1928, the family immigrated to Tacoma, WA, where Engel thought he could make a better living. He found work painting railroad signs. Emma did not want to leave Norway, and the language barrier proved to be a problem for her when she first arrived. She attended classes at Central High School to learn English and obtained part-time housekeeping jobs. In 1936, the family returned to Norway, but by that time, Emma had grown fond of Tacoma and returned alone one year later. Upon her return, she found a housekeeping job in the home of Karl Haymond, who owned the KOMO radio station. In December 1938, Emma married Matt Mattson, who was a logger and fisherman. They had three children: Shirley, Kenneth, and Dennis. In 1947, Emma took her family back to Norway for a year, but since the war had just ended, times were hard and rationing was still occurring. Emma continues to enjoy visiting Norway but would never want to live there permanently. In Tacoma, she maintained some Norwegian customs, such as preparing traditional foods for her family, but she never belonged to a Scandinavian organization.


Full Name: Emma Severine Mattson. Maiden Name: Emma Severine Bratten. Father: Engel Bratten. Mother: Severine Bratten. Maternal Grandfather: Ole Knutson. Spouse: Matt Mattson. Children: Shirley E. Day, Kenneth M. Mattson, Dennis E. Mattson.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The interview was conducted with Emma Mattson on February 9, 1982 in Tacoma, Washington. It contains information on family background, emigration, work, marriage and family, and Norwegian heritage. Also see Matt Mattson. The interview was conducted in English.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on use.

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
143, side 1 006:
Emma Severine Mattson. Maiden name is Bratten. Born in Bergen, Norway on April 25, 1913.
143, side 1 010: PARENTS
Engel and Severine Bratten. Mother's maiden name was Bjørndal. Father was a farmer and did fishing in Norway. In America he worked on the railroad. Emma's mother did housework.
143, side 1 020:
Lived outside of Bergen in Bjørndal, fifteen minute drive from Bergen. It was close to two lakes. Emma was the only child.
143, side 1 029: GRANDPARENTS
There was one living grandparents. Mother's father's name was Ole Knutson.
143, side 1 037:
Name Bjørndal comes from a place outside of Bergen. Bratten is the name of a town west of Bergen where her father is from. Now is called Sotra. This is a big island.
143, side 1 043: CHILDHOOD HOME
Parents rented a place until she was 5. They bought land and built a house where Emma lived until they came to the U.S.
143, side 1 050: CHILDHOOD
Remembers being alone. Played with the neighbor kids, one friend still visits her in Tacoma. They went to school together.
143, side 1 063: CONFIRMATION
Confirmed when she was 14 an important time. A dividing time between childhood and adulthood. They really celebrated it.
Family invited over to dinner, celebrate the whole day. Received gifts. Mentions one girl who received 6,000 krones. Some girls got special Norwegian costumes for confirmation.
143, side 1 088:
Finished school in Norway. Did housework after she finished.
Father had been to the U.S. (Tacoma, Seattle, Montana) two times before they all went. He had a brother in California. He thought he could make a better living in the U.S. He did work for the railroad painting railroad signs.
143, side 1 102:
Emma first came to the U.S. with her mother in 1928. Took Stavangerfjord over. Rough seas, seasickness. Landed in New York. Took train to Tacoma.
Not crazy about going, all her friends were in Norway. Did not understand anybody in U.S. because of the language barrier.
143, side 1 118: LANDING IN NEW YORK
Nothing special, just went through customs.
143, side 1 120: TOOK TRAIN
Was with her mother. Father was already in Tacoma. Mother spoke English already because she had been in Illinois during her youth.
143, side 1 128: TACOMA
Rented a house from Norwegian people. The renters daughter helped Emma with the language. Went to Central High School and learned English which helped a lot.
143, side 1 135: WORK
Stayed home with her parents. Depression hit so it was hard to find work. Came to Tacoma in May 1928. Father worked through the Depression.
143, side 1 146:
Family stayed in a Norwegian community. Father was gone a lot, home on weekends. Used to go to 14th and L to a Norwegian service.
143, side 1 157:
Worked outside home part-time doing housework. Got work through acquaintances. Upper-class people usually employed her.
143, side 1 166:
Upon return from Norway in 1937 she went to work in a home of the people who had KOMO radio station, Karl Haymond. She lived with them.
143, side 1 171:
She did general housework. Had her own room. Scandinavians known as a reliable workers. She did cooking and cleaning. Had Thursday afternoons off as did all the other girls. Had Sunday afternoons off.
143, side 1 189: GOING BACK TO NORWAY
1936. Her mother was not happy in the states. Father built a home in Norway. Returned to the same part of Norway.
Emma came back to the U.S. She had friends in Tacoma. Decided she liked it here better.
Husband was a logger and a fisherman. He was gone fishing in the summer. She spent 26 summers alone with the children.
This was a hardship to have all the responsibilities, "keep the home fire going."
Shirley, Kenneth, and Dennis. Dennis drives a bus in Tacoma. Kenneth lives in Seattle. Shirley went to PLU for one and a half years.
Alone most of the year when husband fished in California. Other women were in the same situation.
Some maintained in Tacoma. Make certain foods, baked goods, cookies, and pastries. They prefer these foods.
Does not belong to Scandinavian Organizations. Pastor is Martin Linnerud. He rents Gloria Dei once a month for Norwegian services.
Still uses the Norwegian language. Has cousins left in Norway.
1947, took the family back and stayed for a year. A hardship because everything was rationed, two pounds of meat for six weeks, one cup of sugar a week. This was right after the war. She went to see her mother.
Enjoys visiting Norway. Because of the weather she would not want to live there. Long winter, short summers.
Some good, some not good. Norway takes better care of the old people. They have good old folks homes, clean. They have socialized medicine.
Pictures, mother's belongings.
A drawback to be here with the language, she cannot learn it perfectly.
Some people rude about language problems.
Daughter interested in Norwegian heritage. Speaks the language pretty well.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Confirmation
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Marriage service
  • Norway -- Social conditions -- 1945-
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Ocean travel
  • Railroad travel
  • Personal Names :
  • Mattson, Emma--Interviews (creator)
  • Haymond, Karl
  • Mattson, Dennis
  • Mattson, Matt
  • Bratten, Engel
  • Bratten, Severine
  • Day, Shirley (Mattson)
  • Knutson, Ole
  • Mattson, Kenneth
  • Corporate Names :
  • Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Stavangerfjord (Steamship)
  • Family Names :
  • Bjørndal family
  • Bratten family
  • Day family
  • Knutson family
  • Mattson family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Bergen (Norway)
  • Bjørndal (Norway)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Domestics
  • Loggers
  • Railroads – Employees