Lempi Suaminen Forman Oral History Interview, Unknown  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Forman, Lempi Suaminen
Lempi Suaminen Forman Oral History Interview
Unknown (inclusive)
2 file folders
1 sound cassette
1 compact disc
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Lempi Suaminen Forman, a Finnish 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
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

Lempi Forman was born on a small island close to Turku in southwest Finland. Her father was a farmer/fisherman, and there were five girls and five boys in the family. Growing up, Lempi experienced many hard times due to World War II. Money was scarce, and she says people did not know what to do or how to run their country once the war ended. In the fall of 1948, Lempi moved to Stockholm, where she stayed for half a year, and then immigrated to New York in May 1949. She stayed in New York for five weeks and worked in a tailor shop. On July 4, 1949, she went to Portland, OR, where she had two cousins. Lempi met her husband on an ocean ship where she later worked and had one son, David. Every time she visits Finland, she returns to her home place, but would never want to live there again.


Full Name: Lempi Suaminen Forman. Maiden Name: Lempi Suaminen. Father: Frans Suaminen. Mother: Wilma Aleksandra...? Paternal Grandfather: Johe? Petersson. Maternal Grandfather: Gustav Adolf ...? Brothers and Sisters: There were 10 children altogether, five boys and five girls. Frans Erki? Suaminen, Marte Maria Wilhelmina Suaminen, Kaski? Suaminen, Willia Emelia? Suaminen, Margret? Suaminen, Arne Suaminen, Adolf Suaminen, Ila Suaminen. Spouse: ? Forman. Children: David Forman.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Lempi Forman in Portland, OR. It contains information on her family background, life in Finland during World War II, emigration, and return trips to Finland. 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

Related Materials

To search and view Pacific Lutheran University's digitized images, visit our Digital Assets Website

Processing Note

The interview was conducted by Donna Mallonee 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 NorthwestTacoma, WashingtonUniversity of Washington Press1993

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
20, side 1 005/01: FAMILY BACKGROUND
Her full name in Finland was Lempi ...? Suaminen. Her parents were Wilma Helie? Aleksandra ...?, and her father was Frans...? Suaminen.
20, side 1 018:
There were five girls and five boys in the family. Frans Erki?, Marte Maria Wilhelmina, Lempi (Marte and Lempi were twins), Kaski?...? (a boy), another boy, Willia? Emilie?, Margret?...?, Arne, Adolf, and Ila?.
20, side 1 051:
Mother's father was Gustaf Adolf and father's father was Johe? Petersson. Her father changed the name Petersson to Suaminen because he didn't like Swedish last names. Sweden was in control of Finland for over 300 years. When Finland became independent of the Swedish crown, many people changed their names.
20, side 1 84: EMIGRATION
She came alone on July 4, 1949 to Portland, Oregon. "I just like to run away from home…" She had two cousins here that she'd never met. But they sent her a ticket and invited her to come. "I wasn't too sure. I thought if I liked it I would stay; if I don't like it or learn the language, I can always come back." It was exciting to come to a new country.
20, side 1 113/02: TRIP
She went from Turku in the fall of 1948 to Stockholm where she stayed half a year. Then she took a ship from Göteburg, Sweden to New York in May 1949. She stayed in New York for five weeks. She had no problems with the language. Her profession was tailoring, and she says her boss, "he likes me very much because I can't talk-I just worked." As soon as she learned English, she asked her boss for a raise and the he "didn't like her anymore."
20, side 1 142: SETTLING IN AND WORK
She was happy to be here; there were so many things to see and so much food to eat. Finland was very poor after the war. When she was young, times were poor. Finland had many poor people, a few very rich, and no middle class. She happened to be in the poor class on a small island close to Turku. She went to school on the island and when young, she understood both Swedish and Finnish.
20, side 1 180:
The first time she saw a doctor was when she was 16, 17 and went out to work. Illness were treated at home by her mother who used natural herbs. Father went to a hospital for an ear operation when Lempi was eight years old. He was a farmer/fisherman; mother helped with the fishing.
20, side 1 200/03: CHRISTMAS
Presents were opened in the evening, but otherwise it was similar to American traditions. The children got a small box of raisins each. The year Father was in the hospital they had no money; then there were no raisins at Christmas. But Lempi's mother promised she get them as soon as possible. In June, the children received the Christmas raisins; Lempi ate one raisin a week. If mother cried because of the hard times, Lempi "always gave her one raisin to make her feel better."
20, side 1 243:
Special food at Christmas was lutfisk and …..? There might be ham but no beef. The church was a Lutheran state church. There were other small religious groups that didn't pay state taxes because they didn't belong to the state church.
20, side 1 265/04: RETURN TRIPS TO FINLAND
She has returned to her home place every time she visited Finland. "It's nice to see, but I never want to live there. It's so far away and you can't go there without a boat." When she was young, they moved from one island to another as father searched for more work. She was three when they left her grandpa's house where she was born. She has two sisters here besides cousins. Most of her relatives live in Turku, but one brother lives on an island.
20, side 1 290:
Finland was the only country after WWII to pay her war debts; even though times were hard, payments were made in full. Lempi is very proud of Finland for that. During the "Winter War" of 1939-1940, the weather was unusually cold. When the family went fishing, they wore white pillow cases or sheets as camouflage over their regular clothes, so the Russians couldn't see them. Lempi and her brother went fishing one time and forgot "the white clothes that looked like snow" and they were spotted by the Russians. The Russians shot at them, but the kids took refuge on a small island until the soldiers left. Afterwards, they picked up the bullets, one of which Lempi kept as a souvenir.
20, side 1 330:
The war ended in March and Finland lost land. People weren't happy because they didn't know how to run the country. "We didn't know what to do. We didn't have to do anything; we just lived from day to day. When the war ended, we had to think…" During the war, she was like a traffic police officer; she helped people get n shelters during bombing raids. "But then when the war ended we did not know what to do. We absolutely were lost. It was so strange, because the war was for six years." Five brothers fought in the war, one came home early to serve as a fireman. Mother was happy to get her sons back. But the others didn't know what to do besides smoking and drinking.
20, side 1 362:
Her cousins sent clothes, shoes, and food during the war.
20, side 1 373/05:
Mother worked hard when the family was young. The father was sickly and she cared for him, the house, and the kids besides trying to fish and work outside sometimes. He was in the hospital more than once. He had an accident working on the highway. Mother managed but suffered a lot. She had a good time after the war when she was older and had grandchildren.
20, side 1 396: TRADITION
Lempi's son is not satisfied with a box of raisins for Christmas, so that changed. She has kept up with the foods like rice pudding and lutfisk at Christmas. She serves the rice with a sweet fruit soup over it. She cooks the rice with a stick of cinnamon in it, and whoever gets the cinnamon stick has luck for the whole year.Lempi still speaks Finnish with her sisters and her son, David. He knows both Finnish and Norwegian because his dad spoke Norwegian with him. She met her husband on an ocean ship where she worked. She's been to Puerto Rico and South America. "He didn't know any English; I didn't know any Norwegian. So we had two dictionaries to work on it."
20, side 1 435:
Lempi recites a Finnish children's evening prayer which she used when she was little.
20, side 1 Track 6:
Information that Lempi told Donna Mallonee right when she was leaving, concerning Lempi's dialect and relationship between Swedes and the Finns.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Christmas
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Finland
  • Finnish-Americans--Northwest, Pacific--Interviews
  • Finnish-Americans--Social life and customs
  • World War -- 1939-1945

Personal Names

  • Adolf, Gustaf
  • Aleksandra, Wilma
  • Forman, David
  • Suaminen, Adolf
  • Suaminen, Arne
  • Suaminen, Ila
  • Suaminen, Kaski
  • Suaminen, Margret
  • Suaminen, Willia Emelia
  • Forman, Lempi--Interviews (creator)
  • Petersson, John
  • Suaminen, Frans
  • Suaminen, Frans Erki
  • Suaminen, Marte Maria Wilhelmina

Family Names

  • Forman family
  • Petersson family
  • Suaminen family

Geographical Names

  • Portland (Or.)
  • Turku, Finland

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Famers
  • Tailors