Aletta Josefson Anderson Oral History Interview, 1978

Overview of the Collection

Anderson, Aletta Josefson
Aletta Josefson Anderson Oral History Interview
1978 (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
2 compact discs
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Aletta Josefson Anderson, a Norwegian immigrant.
Pacific Lutheran University, Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Pacific Lutheran University
12180 Park Avenue South
Tacoma, Washington 98447
Telephone: (253) 535-7586
Fax: (253) 535-7315
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

Aletta Andersen was born in Nordfjord, Norway in 1901. Her father was Kristian Josefson, and she had four sisters and four brothers. Her youngest brother died soon after birth. Aletta attended school in the winter and helped on family farms during the remainder of the year. She later married Anders Andersen, a printer, and their first child, Garman, was born on September 3, 1921 in Bergen, Norway. Influenced by his uncle en route to America, Anders decided to immigrate in December 1924. Aletta and Garman followed in February 1925. Ander's first jobs in America were for the railroad and a sawmill, but he later worked for a Tacoma bookstore, a company that printed labels on matchboxes, a telephone book printing company in San Francisco, and The Oakland Tribune. From The Oakland Tribune, he was transferred to the Tacoma News Tribune, where the family then remained. By this time, the Andersens also had a daughter. In America, Aletta became active in the Lutheran church, took part in community activities, and participated in Scandinavian organizations. She returned to Norway, where her family still remained, four times after coming to America.


Full Name: Aletta U. Andersen. Maiden Name: Josefson. Father: Kristian Josefson. Brothers and Sisters: There were four sisters and three brothers; one boy, the ninth child, died soon after birth. Spouse: Anders (Andrew M.) Andersen. Children: Garman Andersen Daughter (?)

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Aletta Andersen on April 20, 1978 in Tacoma, Washington. It includes information on Aletta's family and married background, emigration, Norwegian heritage, community activities, and cultural differences. 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

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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
4, side 1 003:
4, side 1 002/13: FAMILY BACKGROUND
Her husband was Anders Andersen, and they have two children. Her daughter lives in Portland, OR, and has three daughters. Aletta has traveled to Norway four times. On the first trip in 1949 she and her 18 year old daughter took the boat; on the remaining trips they flew.
4, side 1 062:
Her son lives in Seattle and works for the telephone company. He has four children. The oldest daughter is married. The next child - the older boy - teaches at Rogers High School in Puyallup. The third child lives in Vancouver, WA, and the fourth is 18 and at home.
4, side 1 082:
Aletta has seven grandchildren. One of her granddaughters has been in Norway twice. Aletta's last two trips were in 1971 and 1977 when she was accompanied by family.
Aletta has four sisters and two brothers back in Nordfjord, Norway where she was born; the oldest brother has died. She worked in Bergen, and she and her husband lived in Bergen after marriage.
4, side 1 107: EMIGRATION
Her husband emigrated in December 1924 and she followed in February 1925. Anders was a "machine master" printing books and magazines. In America his card was not accepted, so he worked at Bachman's (?) sawmill in Tacoma with his uncle with whom he emigrated. His uncle, also from Nordfjord, stopped and visited them on a Wednesday in Bergen in route to America. By Saturday, her husband was so excited that he decided to emigrate. It wasn't until in the middle of the (Atlantic) Ocean he began thinking about work in America.
4, side 1 148/14:
How did Aletta feel about his leaving? "You have to expect it. It was pretty hard." Her husband expected to return to Norway after visiting America. That's why Aletta and their two year old son remained in Bergen. Aletta worked two hours over lunch time at her sister's grocery store relieving the hired girl.
4, side 1 164:
Her husband was on strike back in Norway and wanted to work for a newspaper in America. After his card was not acceptable, he worked for the railroad and a sawmill before getting a job in a Tacoma bookstore. The owner of the store recommended him for a job at Pacific Nash (?), a company which printed labels on matchboxes. He worked these two jobs simultaneously until he went to San Francisco and got a job printing telephone books. The family joined him there six months later.
4, side 1 233:
He later worked for the Oakland Tribune, had his card again, and transferred to the Tacoma News Tribune in 1950. They have lived here since then.
4, side 1 248:
Talks about the family moving to and from CA and WA. Their first trip to Norway took place in 1949 while still living in CA. Back in Tacoma, Aletta helped care for her first grandchild.
4, side 1 292/15:
Husband died in 1970 at age of 70 years old. Aletta makes the observation that "I always came after him..." to America and then San Francisco. "Where he found his living, that's where I belonged." Before he died he had two strokes and couldn't keep up the yardwork, fruit trees, etc. He didn't like the looks of things going down. He died in August, and Aletta sold the house and moved into an apartment.
Aletta was active in church. Her husband was approached by the Sons of Norway. But he was put off because the men had forgotten Norwegian and spoke poor English.
4, side 1 366/16: NORWEGIAN HERITAGzE
She cooks Norwegian food for family events: roemmegroet, meatballs, lutefisk, juleribber, and bloetkake.
4, side 1 417:
In Norway they celebrated Christmas for many days beginning with lille julaften, then julaften, juledag, annen juledag, etc. In America she follows this country's traditions but bakes fattigmann, hortetakk, and all those things.
4, side 1 431/01:
Used to celebrate the 17th of May and mid-summerfest. Would go with a church group and have a smoergaasbord.
4, side 1 447:
They read Norwegian newspapers when they first came. But after being away from Norway so long, they discontinued it.
4, side 1 451:
Aletta's hobby is to have visitors. Tells a story about a recent lady visitor who happened to be the first person in the house the day her husband died.
4, side 1 490:
Tells about her husband's death.
4, side 1 525:
Tells about selling her house.
4, side 1 555/02:
Tells about her children and grandchildren and their education. Her son attended PLU one semester, then was in the military and started work after marriage. The grandson who teaches at Rogers graduated from PLU.
4, side 1 600:
Talks about church. They had a cousin who lived in Tacoma who was Pentecostal, but they weren't raised like that. When they rented a house on I St., they met a pastor in the neighborhood. They joined his church, the Lutheran Free Church. The second pastor there was Anke Berg, a woman who had been a teacher at LBI. Aletta tells a story about this woman's daughter and a health affliction.
4, side 1 653/03:
Aletta's parents and grandparents. Aletta only remembers seeing one grandmother who was small and about 90 years old at the time. Her parents were alive in 1949; both died about 1968.
4, side 1 672:
Her father emigrated to Iowa as a single man. He returned to Norway, married, and farmed - even milked the cows. They lived in Kvagen (?), Nordfjord. There were nine children, but one boy died shortly after birth. The farm is still in the family, owned by one of her older brothers (now 85) who lives there with his daughter. His son was very ambitious; had built a new house and barn on the farm. He also worked spraying pesticides for the local farmers. Didn't wear a mask, got sick and died at age 30. The daughter was engaged to be married, but her fiance‚ died in a plane crash. She never married; looks after her father and takes care of the farm.
4, side 1 714/04:
She works like a man with all the machinery, etc. Women used to do all the farm chores; now men do that. "Now they (the woman) are getting kind of...spoiled, I guess." Some have jobs. In her day "we didn't think of it. A woman should be home with her family. That was most important in those days." Like in America, women don't make things - they buy them. "Of course that was kind of ......(crazy?) back in the old days when you knit your own stockings and made clothes for your menfolks." The men farmed and fished in the winter besides making and mending nets. In winter the girls knitted and spun, but in summer they worked outside taking the cows to and from distant fields morning and evening - not seters in that part of the country; that was further inland in the fjords.
4, side 1 755: WORK
When Aletta was 12, she helped an older sister with her seven children on their farm. At 16, a cousin's wife died, and Aletta worked for this family with five children. Besides looking after the children, she cooked, washed, and did the barn chores.
4, side 1 772/05:
772/05 SCHOOL. Attended school in the winter.
4, side 2 043/06:
Remembers being carried up to the road when she was six or seven. Then she and her sister joined other children and walked a half hour to reach the school.
4, side 2 066: FAMILY LIFE
She had a secure homelife which was wonderful. Her dad, Kristian Josefson, made shoes for them and was a very handy man. In winter her mother hired a lady to help make flatbroed on a big griddle over an open fire; the flatbroed was stored in barrels for summer use.
4, side 2 097/07: EMIGRATION
When she left, her father "couldn't say a word - he cried". Both she and her son were checked by a doctor before they left. The water was rough, the fog horn blew, and there was ice scraping on the ship. She came second class, and basically spent the nine days in bed because of seasickness. She couldn't eat and was so sick and weak, she had trouble feeding her son. She wanted to bathe before leaving the boat in NY and needed to be supported by the nurse. Her son felt fine; was running around.
4, side 2 156:
Had no trouble with customs.
4, side 2 193/08: TRAIN TRIP
She sat at the station with her boy and a few suitcases. Was helped by a Norwegian man from the same boat - he thought she'd miss her train. Earlier she'd been approached by another fellow who suggested that she didn't have to leave that night but could come stay overnight at his home and take the morning train. She replied, "No, I sent a telegram (to her husband) that I'm supposed to come with this train". And she adds that's how one could get into trouble. She had seen the Norwegian fellow on the boat and trusted him. After that, the conductors helped her change trains. She ate on the train.
4, side 2 268/09:
The hardest thing in America was the language. Tells a story about shopping and mispronouncing words. Her son would speak English to other children but Norwegian to her.
4, side 2 296: CITIZENSHIP
She took citizenship classes at Lincoln High School and regrets she didn't take English at the same time.
4, side 2 319:
Most exciting times in Norway were the picnics. She didn't have much time off and really enjoyed them. She and her husband like to travel in America.
4, side 2 357/10: CHURCH ACTIVITIES
Used to be in sewing circle which was more social then; now it's all business. They'd sew, eat together, and have Bible study. Talks about her church relations and activities now; belongs to Gloria Dei.
4, side 2 412/11:
Commentary on current social values. Allowance or support for unmarried people and their children; insecure for the children not to have two parents. (434 - 474: interview and voices become blurred because of background noise; more talk about values.)
4, side 2 474:
Speaking Norwegian. Aletta says a prayer in Norwegian - "Fader vår....."

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Norway
  • Naturalization
  • Norwegian-Americans--Ethnic identity
  • Scandinavian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Scandinavian-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Social life and customs

Personal Names

  • Andersen, Anders
  • Andersen, Garman
  • Anderson, Aletta Josefson--Interviews (creator)
  • Josefson, Kristian

Corporate Names

  • Oakland Tribune
  • Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (Tacoma, Wash.)
  • Lutheran Free Church
  • Tacoma News Tribune

Family Names

  • Anderson family
  • Josefson family

Geographical Names

  • Bergen (Norway)
  • Nordfjord (Norway)
  • San Francisco (Calif.)
  • Tacoma (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Clerks
  • Farmers
  • Railroads Employees
  • Sawmill workers