Anna Georgina Hansen Ekrem Oral History Interview, 1982

Overview of the Collection

Ekrem, Anna Georgina Hansen
Anna Georgina Hansen Ekrem Oral History Interview
1982 (inclusive)
3 file folders
4 photographs
2 sound cassettes
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Anna Georgina Hansen Ekrem, a Norwegian immigrant.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington
Telephone: 2535357586
Fax: 2535357315
Access Restrictions

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

Anna Ekrem was born on February 21, 1891 in Eidshaug, Kolvereid, Norway to Adolf Hansen and Caroline Johansen. Adolf was a fisherman and Caroline took care of the family's farm when Adolf was out fishing. Anna had six siblings: Haakon, Henrietta, Johan, Katrina, Hildur, and Regine. Anna was confirmed in Kolvereid, where she had to stay with friends during the week for two - three months in order to attend classes at the Church. Following confirmation, Anna graduated from high school and then went to Trondheim to learn how to knit. Anna worked in Trondheim for three years and then immigrated to Tacoma, WA with her Aunt Maren in 1914. On the their way to America, Anna's boat was stopped by the Germans, who knew that three English boys were stowing away. Rather than searching the boat, the Germans stayed for seven days, knowing that the boys would eventually starve to death.

When Anna first arrived in America, she stayed with another aunt of hers in Arlington, WA for two months and then rented an apartment in Tacoma. In Tacoma, Anna got a housekeeping job for a wealthy Norwegian couple on Pt. Defiance, and then obtained a knitting job. She also joined Nordlandslaget and the Sons of Norway. At a Christmas get-together, she met her husband Ole Ekrem, who was originally from Ålesund, Norway and had come down to Tacoma from Alaska for the winter. Pastor Ordal married Ole and Anna in Tacoma on November 16, 1917, and they moved to Petersburg, Alaska after Christmas. In Alaska, Ole worked at a marble quarry, but while buying fish at the dock one day, he tried to help someone with a hoist and injured his arm. The doctors were going to amputate his arm, but a young doctor from Chicago decided it was not necessary. Nevertheless, Ole has never been able to fully use his arm after the injury. Having studied nursing in Tacoma, Anna was working at the hospital while Ole was admitted there, but after he got out, she began working in a fish house and Ole eventually began cooking at logging camps during the winter. In Alaska, Anna joined both the Sons and Daughters of Norway and also attended the Lutheran Church in Petersburg.

In 1919, Ole and Anna had their first daughter, Caroline, and in 1924, their daughter Phyllis was born. Anna continued working, and in 1942, the family moved to Seattle so the girls could attend college. Caroline attended Pacific Lutheran University. In 1961, Ole and Anna returned to Norway for five months, and Anna observed many changes, particularly in the way people dressed. At home, she continues to speak Norwegian on occasion as well as cooking some traditional Norwegian foods.


Full Name: Anna Georgina Hansen Ekrem. Maiden Name: Anna Georgina Hansen. Father: Adolf Hansen. Mother: Caroline Johansen. Maternal Grandmother: Marit Johansen. Brothers and Sisters: Haakon Langstrand, Henrietta Hansen, Johan Hansen, Katrina Hansen, Hildur Hansen Regine (?) Hansen. Spouse: Ole Ekrem. Children: Caroline Gerbel, Phyllis Pellmore (?).

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Anna Ekrem on February 8, 1982 in Tacoma, Washington. It provides information on family background, schooling, work, emigration, marriage and family, church and community activities, and Norwegian heritage. The interview also contains two photographs of Anna as a young woman and two photographs of Anna at the time of the interview. 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

Custodial History

The Oral History collection project was started during an experimental course on Scandinavian Women in the Pacific Northwest. Students in the course were encouraged to interview women and learn about their experiences as immigrants to the United States. The project was continued and expanded with support from the president's office and by grants from the L.J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation, from the Joel E. Ferris Foundation and the Norwegian Emigration Fund of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project was directed by Dr. Janet E. Rasmussen. The collection was transferred to the Archives and Special Collections Department.

Acquisition Information

Processing Note

The interview was conducted by Inger Nygaard Carr using a cassette recorder. A research copy was also prepared from the original. To further preserve the content of the interview, it is now being transferred to compact disc. We deliberately did not transcribe the entire interview because we want the researchers to listen to the interviewee's own voice. The transcription index highlights important aspects of the interview and the tape counter numbers noted on the Partial Interview Transcription are meant as approximate finding guides and refer to the location of a subject on the cassette/CD. The recording quality is good

The collection was transcribed by Mary Sue Gee, Julie Peterson and Becky Husby.


Rasmussen, Janet Elaine. New Land New Lives: Scandinavian Immigrants to the Pacific Northwest Tacoma, Washington University of Washington Press 1993

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
140, side 1 022: Anna Georgina Ekrem
Born in Eidshaug, Kolvereid, Norway. Eidshaug is north of Trondheim. Anna's grandmother moved from Hardanger to Trondheim about 100 years ago. Her name was Marit Johansen. Anna was born on February 21, 1891.
140, side 1 101: PARENTS
Caroline Johansen and Adolf Hansen. Father had been doing carpentry work in the U.S. Got hurt and came home. Had a little farm.
140, side 1 155:
Started fishing. On their farm they had two cows, two pigs, and some calves. Tells a story about feeding a pig in their house while their parents were out. Mother did the farm work while their father was fishing.
140, side 1 227: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Haakon Langstrand (?), youngest brother lived on the family farm and fished. Henrietta came to Seattle and worked in a hospital. Husband was a fisherman. Johan, older brother fished with father. Died when young. Katrina. Hildur lives in Canada. Married a farmer. Regine (?), youngest sister, died during WWII when the Germans came. Mother and father died then too.
140, side 1 346: GRANDPARENTS
Maternal, Marit Johansen (see also I-022). "Came to Trondheim with one kid, one cow, and one man." Grandmother lived to be about 100 years old. Doesn't remember her grandfather. Paternal doesn't remember them.
140, side 1 381: SCHOOL
Had to take a boat to school. Now there are bridges there. Graduated from high school. Anna liked to paint. Wanted to knit. Went to Trondheim. Learned to knit on a machine. Brought a machine to Tacoma, Washington. Got a job knitting.
140, side 1 436: CHURCH
Had to take a boat to church. Had to wear clothes suitable for rowing. Changed clothes in a little shack on the beach. Mother often stayed home. Took care of the little ones. Had dinner ready when they came back.
140, side 1 479: CHRISTMAS
They'd go to the woods with their father and he'd cut a tree. Couldn't trim it until Christmas Eve. Their grandmother would help. Mother would make cookies and chocolate. Lutefisk dinner on Christmas Eve. Potatoes, coffee, cookies. Roast on Christmas Day.
140, side 1 539: CHURCH ON CHRISTMAS DAY
A long way to go to church. Snow storms. Had to cross the fjord where all the steamers went. Ice made some parts very narrow. Had to get out of the boat in places and pull it along. Church was in Kolvereid. School was closer.
140, side 1 564: GETTING CONFIRMED
Went to Kolvereid for baptisms, funerals, confirmation, etc. Had classes at the church for 2-3 months. Stayed with friends in Kolvereid during the week. Went home on the weekends.
140, side 1 588:
Grandmother used to tell them stories. Told them that the time would come when you couldn't tell a man from a woman.
140, side 1 620:
Anna used to fish herring with her father. She'd steer the boat. Her sister, Henrietta wouldn't go. Anna was 12-13 years old then.
140, side 1 646:
After high school, she knitted in Trondheim. She was 16-17 then. Helped on the farm before she went to Trondheim. Liked it on the farm.
140, side 1 684:
Programs and picnics often when she was a child. Tells about washing and steering sheep. Carding and spinning the wool.
140, side 1 721:
Worked in Trondheim for about three years. Her Aunt Maren and her husband (a druggist from Bodø) lived in America. Had a daughter in Tacoma, Washington. Anna's aunt, Anna, also lived in America with her husband and four children. Her husband was a building contractor. Fell off a roof and died. Maren came home. Stayed two years. Had never learned English. Anna went back to America with her. Maren's daughter was married in Tacoma, Washington.
140, side 1 805:
Left from Rørvik on June 12, 1914. Changed ships in Trondheim and Oslo. Sailed across the Atlantic on the "Kristianiafjord," which sank the following year.
140, side 1 824:
Both parents were living when Anna left for America. Spent the night in Roervik with her sister. Her mother was there too. She fainted on the dock when Anna got on the boat. Father was out fishing. Tells about saying goodbye to her grandmother.
140, side 1 864:
Tells about how her grandmother would help her brother who were both single. She'd walk up a hill through the woods with her cane.
140, side 1 881: TRIP TO AMERICA
Were stopped by the Germans on the Atlantic Ocean. Submarines all around. Three boys from England came to Norway and were stowaways on the boat. The Germans stayed for seven days. Didn't look for them. Just ate and drank. Germans knew the boys would die because they couldn't get food.
140, side 1 977:
Germans were tough people. Germans used to come to Norway in the summer. Anna thought Kaiser Wilhelm was the only man. Sat close to him and had dinner with him in Trondheim once. Came every summer with his two ships. They say he started the war, but he seemed like a nice man.
140, side 1 998:
Came to New York around July 1. They took the cargo out of the ship. Found the three English boys dead. Went to Ellis Island for examination, eyes, ears, etc. Liked America. Had cousins here. Thought she'd go back to Norway after a couple of years.
140, side 1 1050: TRAIN TRIP
New York to Chicago. No problems. TRIP WEST: Talks about Indians she saw nursing their babies.
140, side 1 1071:
Got off the train in Seattle. Aunt Anna had a daughter, Sigrid, whose husband had a dairy farm in Arlington, Washington. They wanted to go there. Anna couldn't speak much English. Took the bus there. Stayed for two months in Tacoma.
140, side 1 1104: TACOMA
Anna and her aunt took the train to Tacoma. Aunt had a house. Anna got an apartment in Tacoma.
140, side 2 031:
Met a girl who was adopted by a Norwegian lady, Mrs. Anderson. The girl understood Norwegian. Spoke some. Showed Anna around.
140, side 2 070:
Mrs. Anderson was like a mother to Anna.
140, side 2 081:
Anna rented a room from Mrs. Vail (?) for $5 a moth. She got a job housekeeping for a Norwegian couple on Point Defiance, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson.
140, side 2 100:
He was a millionaire. Made money from gold mining in Alaska. Anna lived there. Got $25 a month.
140, side 2 174:
Tells about New Years Eve 1916 in Tacoma. All the liquor stores were closed. Had trucks that were loaded with liquor. Snow and frost. Went downtown. Tells about what was going on Broadway.
140, side 2 269:
Stayed at the Anderson's for a year. Then got a job knitting. A lady wanted to open a knitting shop but couldn't knit. Set up a shop in her home. The shop was located in south Tacoma. Anna had an apartment in the same area. Made $40 a month knitting. Sent $5 home to her mother every month, paid rent, and went out on weekends. Made enough to get along.
140, side 2 364:
Joined Nordlandslaget in 1914 when she first came. Joined the Sons of Norway too. Tells about the first pair of shoes she bought in 1914 for a Christmas gathering for newcomers at the Sons of Norway Hall. Paid $2.50 for them. Her daughter has them now. They fit her perfectly.
140, side 2 400:
When Anna came to Tacoma, Nordstrom's had a store downtown on Broadway. She would go there because they could speak her language. Mr. Nordstrom was Swedish. He visited them in Alaska and they visited him in Seattle.
140, side 2 416:
Anna went to evening school while working in the knitting shop. Went there every weeknight. Classes at Lincoln High School.
140, side 2 447:
Felt at home in Tacoma by this time. Had many friends, Gina Larsen, Clara Magnussen, and Mrs. Kirkemo.
140, side 2 463: MEETING SPOUSE
Went to Christmas get-togethers. Anna was serving food. After dinner, everyone went into the room where the Christmas tree was. Boys sat in a row on one side, so the girls went to the other side to sit in a row. As Anna walked by, only one boy stood up and said hello. That was her husband. His name was Ole Ekrem. When they danced around the tree, Ole chose Anna. Ole was from Ålesund.
140, side 2 566:
He was down from Alaska for the winter. He was working at a marble quarry in Alaska.
140, side 2 582:
Got married in Tacoma on November 16, 1917 at the home of Pastor Ordal. Took the Ordal's out to dinner.
140, side 2 635:
Rented an apartment on Ainsworth, across the street from where Clara Magnussen was living at that time. Anna quit working. They moved to Alaska after Christmas.
140, side 2 646:
Moved to Petersburg, Alaska which is in southeastern Alaska. Went there between Christmas and New Years. There was so much snow that they couldn't get where they were supposed to go. Went to the hotel in Petersburg. Asked Mrs. Peterson if they could spend the night. Have been friends with Mrs. Peterson ever since. She passed away in Sitka, Alaska last year (1981).
140, side 2 692:
Tells about the place they lived in after they were first married. Mr. Olsen, the man they rented from was cranky.
140, side 2 713:
Didn't stay there too long. Ole got hurt at work. He was down on the dock buying some fish. Rope on a hoist was worn out. Someone was having trouble with it. Called Ole to come help. Ole got caught in it. Kept hitting his head. They were building a restaurant above the dock.
140, side 2 746:
Couldn't work there anymore. Got a job working in a store for a German man. While Ole was in the hospital, Anna was working in the hospital. They gave her a room there. She'd studied nursing in Tacoma. They were going to amputate his arm but a young doctor from Chicago who was working in Juneau said it wasn't necessary. That doctor helped Anna find a nice little house by the beach. Anna paid $200 for the house.
140, side 2 832:
Ole was fine when he got out of the hospital, but couldn't really use his arm. Anna started working in a fish house. She'd pick shrimp and crab. Got 25 cents an hour. Worked from 4am-4pm. Ole was working in the German man's store.
140, side 2 859:
Anna kept working. After their daughter, Caroline was born a 14-year-old girl babysat for Anna. Daughter's married name is Gerbel. They live in Ballard. Second daughter is Phyllis. Married name is Pellmore (?). Husband is an electrician. The whole family moved to Seattle in 1942 so the girls could go to college. Caroline went to Pacific Lutheran University. Phyllis still had to finished high school.
140, side 2 977:
Phyllis studied bookkeeping. She is her husband's bookkeeper now. Worked for the army after she graduated. Worked in Guam for a year and a half. Met a boy from Alabama. They got married. They have a boy and two girls. Caroline and her husband have two boys. Anna tells what some of her grandchildren do.
140, side 2 1073: CHURCH
Went to the Norwegian Lutheran Church on Denny Way. Too far to go now. They went to the Lutheran church in Petersburg, Alaska. Was quite active in that church.
141, side 1 010:
In Alaska, after Anna's husband got a little better, Ole started cooking at logging camps during the winter. Anna was home alone. Stormy weather. Wind blew a window out. Nailed a gunnysack over the window. It blew out too. Terrible night.
141, side 1 054:
Man across the street was out fishing. Had to come in because of the storm. Another man was hunting on the island across from where they were. They couldn't get over to the island. Went the next day and found the man dead.
141, side 1 107:
Tough life. Explains how she got water at their house in Alaska during that stormy night. She had to feed her daughter.
141, side 1 179: TRIPS TO NORWAY
Went in 1961. Nice trip. They took a boat. Husband wouldn't fly. Left in May and came back in October. Stayed with…
141, side 1 218:
Relatives and friends who'd moved back to Norway. Stayed with youngest brother who was living on the family farm. He'd remodeled. Tells about the big oven used for baking bread. Same as his mother did it. He had running water but it was not in the house.
141, side 1 275: CHANGES
Clothing much different. Nieces told her recently that bridges connect islands and pieces of land in that area now. Don't have to take boats anymore.
141, side 1 314:
Churches have changed. Ministers dressed differently. Many changes in Norway.
141, side 1 361: NORWEGIAN IN THE HOME
Sometimes Anna speaks Norwegian at home. Hard to go when people don't understand. Phyllis doesn't speak much. Caroline can speak quite a bit. She has had a Norwegian and a Swedish neighbor.
141, side 1 400: NORWEGIAN FOODS
Lefse. Caroline cooks more Norwegian food than Anna does. Caroline makes lutefisk, lefse, fiskeboller, fish cakes, etc.
141, side 1 453: SPOKEN NORWEGIAN
Speaks some Norwegian. Says a prayer in Norwegian.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Confirmation--Norway
  • Education--Norway
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Fishing
  • Knitting machines
  • Marriage service
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Norwegian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Norwegian-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Ocean travel
  • Railroad travel

Personal Names

  • Ekrem, Anna --Interviews (creator)
  • Ekrem, Ole
  • Johansen, Marit
  • Gerbel, Caroline
  • Hansen, Adolf
  • Johansen, Caroline
  • Pellmore, Phyllis

Corporate Names

  • Ellis Island (N.J. and N.Y.)
  • Kristianiafjord (Steamship)
  • Nordlandslaget Nordlyset (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Sons of Norway (U.S.) Norden Lodge No. 2 (Tacoma, Wash.)

Family Names

  • Ekrem family
  • Gerbel family
  • Hansen family
  • Johansen family
  • Pellmore family

Geographical Names

  • Eidshaug, Kolvereid (Norway)
  • Petersburg (Alaska)
  • Seattle (Wash.)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)
  • Trondheim (Norway)
  • Ålesund (Norway)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Domestics
  • Farmers
  • Nurses