Ella Fjermsted Duus Oral History Interview, 1978  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Duus, Ella Fjermsted
1978 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
2 compact discs
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Ella Fjermsted Duus, a Norgwegian 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

Ella Duus was born on January 5, 1882 or 83 in Stavanger, Norway. Her father was a carpenter and telegraph employee and died when Ella was only six months old. Ella had three older brothers and two older sisters, but the younger of the two sisters died young, and Ella can hardly remember her. Ella's brothers came to America first and made a home for the family in WA, but Ella's oldest sister, Anne, decided to settle in Minneapolis while visiting an aunt there. Ella emigrated around 1902 with her mother when she was nineteen, and her mother died not long after the journey. Once in America, Ella met her husband through her brothers. They were married in 1904, and Ella eventually became an American citizen through him. Ella and her husband were married for sixty-four years and never had any children. After he passed away, Ella returned to Denmark to visit his family, but she never returned to Norway.


Full Name: Ella Duus. Maiden Name: Ella Fjermsted. Brothers and Sisters: There were two sisters and three brothers. Anne Fjermsted

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Ella Duus on June 8, 1978. She was living at Josephine Sunset Home in Stanwood, WA at the time, and the interview contains information on family background, emigration, and Norwegian heritage. The interview was conducted in English.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

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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
12, side 1 049/08: PERSONAL LIFE
Name is Ella Duus; Duus is her husband's name and he was Danish. Maiden name was Fjermsted (?) which became Firmsted (?) in America. She was born in Stavanger on January 5, 1882 or 3. [Ella was about 94 years old at the time of the interview.]
12, side 1 089:
Later on in her married life, she had high blood pressure and couldn't live alone. She sold her home and moved up here [Josephine Sunset Home in Stanwood, WA]. She was quite up in years before she moved to the first home.
12, side 1 111:
She met her husband through her brothers; they were sailing together. He came and went often to their house, and they got to talking. He seemed to like her, and they were married in 1904 a couple of years after she'd been here. His mother and father were still living [in Denmark], and they asked for a picture of her. During the Depression, they got along pretty good. It helped that they had quite a little property out by Seward Park. That area was country then with beautiful houses.
12, side 1 180:
They didn't have any children. Both loved children, but they didn't have any. They wanted to adopt children but everything worked against them.
12, side 1 191:
She worked in the home and garden; had a lovely big yard with fruit trees.
12, side 1 202/09: EMIGRATION
Her brothers came to America first and made a home so the family could eventually all stay together. Some of her old school friends here--one still lives in WA--said, "Why don't you get Ella over because...we'd like to have her over here so we could be together?" Ella refused to come without bringing her mother. Once here, her oldest brother got married and moved away. Then Ella got married. And the youngest brother who was a iron worker in Canada was involved in an accident and was killed.
12, side 1 245:
Ella came right to Seattle when she was about 19. It was hard to get tickets for her and her mother whom she wouldn't leave alone in Norway. Her mother died not long after emigration and is buried in the old cemetery in Seattle; Ella's husband also.
12, side 1 284:
Came by boat and train through England; took a long time to come over. Brothers bought the tickets in Seattle and sent them over. School friends were happy she was coming. She and mother sold off house things. She also had a sister in Minneapolis who was waiting to see them at the train depot. But because of a fire, the train was re-routed. The sister, Anne, came to America earlier to visit and accompany an aunt [mother's sister, Ella] who was lonesome. Anne "fell in love with Minneapolis" and wrote back to her mother: "Mother, I don't know if I ever want to see Stavanger. Minneapolis is the most beautiful city. I think I'd like to stay here". She did, was married and had six children.
12, side 1 308/10:
Anne was the first child in the family and Ella was the last. There were three boys in between. The second child was a girl who passed away whom Ella can hardly remember. Father died when Ella was six months old. He was a carpenter and telegraph employee, and actually did a little of everything. He had very nice handwriting and was hired on by the telegraph office to write down the messages as they came in. After father died, mother took care of the family.
12, side 1 428: SETTLING IN
Mother was over 50 when she came to America, and it was difficult for her to learn English. It was hard for Ella too, but she was determined. She got books with Norwegian on one side and English on the other. She studied those words and got along. If she didn't know words, she looked them up in a dictionary. Her English was fine and she later worked for 16 years on the election board.
12, side 1 460:
Ella continued to speak Norwegian to her mother and brothers until she married. Then she and her husband bought a place of their own only a few blocks away. She kept visiting her mother and speaking Norwegian. She didn't want to forget "å snakke norsk" or mix her languages together. If anybody asks her if she's Norwegian, she says "I am. All of me. From the top to the bottom". She feels the Norwegian language is a good language to learn.
12, side 1 503/11:
She had a good hand at writing like her dad and received excellent grades on school papers in Norway. Ella went to school seven years in Norway, and teachers always said she was good in school, exercise, history, and geography.
12, side 1 519:
The hardest thing in her life was leaving Norway and her friends. She remembers looking back from the America ship and seeing all her friends waving. She couldn't stand it and "went back of the chimney and cried my eyes out. It was the hardest thing for me to do". She thought she'd return in two years, but she hasn't been back yet. Ella went to Denmark to visit her husband's family after he died. They were lonely, and were very nice to her during her visit. They wrote to her in English, but she responded to her mother-in-law in a mixture of Norwegian-Danish. She wanted to visit Norway afterwards, but there was no one to go to. She stayed three weeks in Denmark; saw Copenhagen and other places.
12, side 1 574/12: NORWEGIAN CUSTOMS
Ella was born and raised in the city, and the house they lived in was called Fjermsted because that was their name. The name of Fjermsted changed in America to Firmsted. Her nephew, oldest brother's son, is Arnold Firmsted.
12, side 1 597:
She became an American citizen after marriage. Her husband had already lost one job in San Francisco because of no papers. They moved back to Seattle, ran a boarding house, went to school and learned about citizenship. They both studied hard because he had an opportunity for another good job. He got his papers and she became a citizen automatically through marriage. She was sitting beside him when he had to answer the questions, and she was hoping he wouldn't forget any answers. She was also "trying to see if that man [judge] would just turn a little bit, so I could whisper [answers to her husband if he forgot]. But, he managed, and she was very happy to get her papers.
12, side 1 645/01:
Ella doesn't remember if they belonged to any organizations. They were married 64 years and "that's a long way to forget".
12, side 1 654:
Christmas was very different in America. In Norway they had a four-foot juletre [Christmas tree] and decorated it with homemade paper rings, nuts and apples. They were poor people and had very simple Christmas traditions. She worked in a blomsterforretning [florist shop] in Norway. She still does needlework. But she never made
12, side 1 711:
Ella belonged to a musical group in Norway named "Harmon". She played a mandolin, and other girls played different instruments: ukelele-guitar, violins, accordion, flute. They advertised their performances and would go travel around the fjord in boats. People loved to hear their music. She didn't have anything like that in America.
12, side 2 Side II :
12, side 2 028/02:
Ella also played the guitar and piano. She never took lessons but was simply full of music. She would watch other players to discover fingering. [Discussion about friend's daughter.]
12, side 2 099:
She has two friends at Sunset Home, one is Danish and the other is American. They speak English together, as she did with her husband. They wanted to learn English, so they spoke it. But her mother had a hard time. Ella did the shopping in Norway before she went to school--fisk and kjøtt for fiskboller and kjøttboller.
12, side 2 193:
End of tape.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Boarding houses
  • Denmark -- Social conditions -- 1945-
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Personal Names :
  • Duus, Ella--Interviews (creator)
  • Fjermsted, Anne
  • Corporate Names :
  • Josephine Sunset Home (Stanwood, Wash.)
  • Family Names :
  • Duus family
  • Fjermsted family
  • Geographical Names :
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Stavanger (Norway)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Oral histories
  • Occupations :
  • Election officials