Hilma Laitinen Miller Oral History Interview, 1981  PDF  XML

Overview of the Collection

Miller, Hilma Laitinen
Hilma Laitinen Miller Oral History Interview
1981 (inclusive)
3 file folders
1 photograph
1 sound cassette
Collection Number
An oral history interview with Hilma Laitinen Miller, 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

Hilma Miller was born on January 25, 1893 in Joutsa, Finland, which is located in the central part of the country. Her parents were Gusta and Rikkina Laitinen, and Hilma had one sister, Anna. Gusta also had five other children and Rikkina had another daughter from their previous marriages. Hilma's family did not have a lot of money, and Hilma went to work when she was eleven years old. For seven years, she worked at various farms with her sister. When Hilma was nineteen, she met her husband and was married. They immigrated to America one week after their wedding, settling first in Virginia, Minnesota. Hilma's husband found work at a sawmill, and they remained there for eight years. During that time, their first daughter, Lila, was born. The family then moved to Lost Lake, North Dakota, where Hilma's husband took care of a farm for three years and their second daughter was born. In 1922, they moved to Astoria, Oregon, where Hilma's husband had hoped to go fishing but became a longshoreman instead. Hilma, on the other hand, worked as a short order cook, making Finnish food. She also became involved in Peace Lutheran Church and the Finnish Brotherhood. She returned to Finland once in 1960.


Full Name: Hilma Miller. Maiden Name: Hilma Laitinen. Father: Gusta Laitinen. Mother: Rikkina Laitinen. Maternal Grandmother: Liisa. Brothers and Sisters: There were nine children. Children: Lila Miller.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

This interview was conducted with Hilma Miller on August 25, 1981 in Astoria, Oregon. It provides information on family background, marriage and family, emigration, employment, and Finnish heritage. The interview also includes a photograph of Hilma. 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 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
Born in Joutsa (Youtsa), Mikkelin Lääni, Finland. Joutsa is in central Finland. Birthdate - January 25, 1893.
80, side 1 105: PARENTS
Rikkina & Gusta Laitinen. Raised food on own farm. Father fished & sold fish.
80, side 1 173:
Left home at 11 to work. Took care of cows & children.
80, side 1 201: BROTHERS AND SISTERS
Parents each married twice. Mother had 1 girl from 1st husband. Father had 2 girls and 3 boys from 1st wife. They had 2 girls together - Anna & Hilma.
80, side 1 236: CHILDHOOD HOUSE:
Very little - one room. Little light - one window. Piece of steel in the fireplace to hang pots on. Described how they baked.
80, side 1 278: FOOD
Ate fish and potatoes, Kalamojaka (soup made of fresh fish), and oatmeal.
80, side 1 303: GRANDPARENTS:
Mother's mom called Liisa. Father's parents died before she was born - can't remember them.
80, side 1 327: SCHOOL
Not much. Had school 3 weeks a year at different farms.
80, side 1 350: CHRISTMAS
Had butter and meat.
80, side 1 366: WORK
Age 11, went to work in Heinola. Watched cows and children. Sister worked with her. Worked 7 years at various farms.
80, side 1 434:
Talks about a place called Makkaramäki (Sausage Hill) and how she like sausage.
80, side 1 451: CAME TO US
When about 20 with husband.
80, side 1 463: HUSBAND
Met when 19. Lived with mother and brothers on farm.
80, side 1 492: WORK
Hilma worked at a paper mill for a while.
80, side 1 498:
Hilma asked husband to go to America.
80, side 1 498: WEDDING
Married before they left for America. Big wedding - party for 3 days. Her husband's family had money.
80, side 1 518:
Talks about being poor in Finland and how people would talk about this. She didn't like this (Discussion in Finnish - translated by Donna Mallonee).
80, side 1 545: STORY
Tells about her and her husband being locked in a building on the farm. Mother-in-law let them out in the morning.
80, side 1 605: TRIP OVER
Husband, his cousin, and Hilma came together. Stayed in England 1week and waited for the boat. Cousin named Robert Uotila.
80, side 1 631:
Came to New York. Went to Ellis Island. Took train to Virginia, Minnesota. Lived there 8 years.
80, side 1 660: WORK
Husband worked in saw mills.
Couldn't speak any English so there were some problems at first.
80, side 1 673: FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Heavy rain. Big buildings. Didn't like it.
80, side 1 693:
After the war moved to Lost Lake, North Dakota. Husband took care of a farm. They lived there for 3 years.
80, side 1 716: CHILDREN
Oldest daughter born in Minnesota. 2nd daughter born in North Dakota.
80, side 1 727:
Moved to Astoria, Oregon so husband could do some fishing, but law wouldn't allow foreigners to fish in 1922.
80, side 1 753:
Rented a house in Astoria, Oregon. Husband worked as a longshoreman.
80, side 1 775: ASTORIA 1922
Didn't like it. Everything burned. They think someone started it.
80, side 1 815:
Men or women - who works the hardest? She say in Finnish, "There are lazy men and lazy women."
80, side 1 830: BOARDING HOUSES
Many men lived there working in Astoria during the winter and went to Alaska during the summer.
80, side 1 841: CHURCH LIFE
Belonged to Peace Lutheran. Mostly Finnish people.
Used to be a member and go to meetings.
80, side 1 875: TRIPS TO FINLAND
1960 - stayed for 3 mos. "Everything changed." Still has family in Finland.
80, side 1 895:
Has family who comes to visit her in Astoria, Oregon now. Oldest daughter married a Finnish man. Youngest daughter married an Englishman.
80, side 1 911: FINNISH FOOD
Worked as a short order cook - made Finnish food. Cooked Finnish food at home some (Speaks in Finnish). Story: (Donna Mallonee translates) Finnish fisherman came to the restaurant wanting salt fish and buttermilk, a Finnish favorite.
80, side 1 939: CHILDREN
Can speak Finnish. Lila (oldest) speaks it.
80, side 1 950: RAISING CHILDREN
Lila going to school. She didn't want to go.
80, side 1 970: HUSBAND DIED
January 25, 1967.
Hilma liked working in the paper mill in Finland. She married her husband and left 1 week after they were wed.
80, side 1 1012: WEDDING
Describes her Finnish wedding. A big platform built for dancing. Many flowers. Well decorated.
80, side 1 1032: STORY
(Donna Translates) As a child Hilma made marks on a stick which got her father in trouble because he'd kept track of his work days on it. Hilma made too many marks, father's boss became upset and had to leave the job.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Emigration and immigration
  • Family--Finland
  • Finnish-Americans--Northwest,Pacific--Interviews
  • Finnish-Americans--Social life and customs
  • Marriage service

Personal Names

  • Laitinen, Anna
  • Miller, Hilma--Interviews (creator)
  • Miller, Lila
  • Laitinen, Gusta
  • Laitinen, Rikkina

Corporate Names

  • Ellis Island Immigration Station ( N.J. and N.Y.)
  • Peace Lutheran Church (Astoria, Or.)

Family Names

  • Laitinen family
  • Miller family

Geographical Names

  • Astoria (Or.)
  • Joutsa (Finland)
  • Virginia (Minn.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories


  • Farmers
  • Sawmill workers
  • Stevedores