The years 1910-1914 were the apogee of Scandinavian immigrant culture in North America
(Barton 210). The numbers of Scandinavian-born North Americans reached their peak and the political
climate allowed acceptance of Northern and Western European immigrant culture. The
Scandinavian press flourished. By 1910, no fewer than 1158 Swedish-American newspapers
and journals had been founded in North America (Beijbom 221). In addition, between 1847 and 1925, there had been some 500 Norwegian papers in
North America (Loken 168).
One of these newspapers was Vikingen, a local paper in the Norwegian language, published bi-monthly by a literary society
called the Skandinaviske Ungdomsforening i Edmonton [the Scandinavian Youth Club in Edmonton] (Vikingen, No. 1, 13 December 1911, 1). The language of the publication was almost exclusively Norwegian riksmål, with a few individual articles in landsmål and English. The expressed purpose of the publication was to keep the members of
the community informed about the activities of the local Scandinavian community in
Edmonton and Northern Alberta. “Den skal have som sit formål at holde medlemmerne underrettet om nyhederne blandt
Skandinaverne i Edmonton og omegn” [Its objective is to keep the members informed about the news among the Scandinavians
in Edmonton and its surroundings] (Ibid.). The editor of the paper had high ambitions, and intended to expand its circle of
readers to all Scandinavians in America and to have the paper’s coverage expanded
beyond merely local news.
Vikingen udkommer som regel 2 gange hver maaned. —Det er et originalt og meget literært blad,
tilægnet hele det skandinaviske folk i America. Bladet leverer den bedste folkelige
læsning, ved berömte skandinavisk Americanske [sic] forfattere, som det er muligt
[As a rule, Vikingen is published bi-weekly. It is an original and very literary paper, for all Scandinavians
in (North) America. The paper delivers the best available popular reading, by the
best known Scandinavian American authors which it is possible to get.] (Haakon Floen, “Til Abonenterne!” Vikingen, No. 14, 2 October 1912)
While these ambitious plans did not materialize, Vikingen did become a forum for literary discussion, a polemical arena for debating the political
issues of the day in Canadian, American and Scandinavian politics. Two topics in particular
attracted special attention—women’s suffrage rights and the burning issue of alcohol
Vikingen published poems of varying quality, written by members of the Norwegian community.
Many of the literary contributions allegorically depicted the members of the society
as fearless explorers and brave Vikings, the successors of Leif Eriksson and Bjarni
Herjólfsson. The Scandinavian societies in Edmonton were extremely active. They arranged
popular lecture series, occasionally with extraordinary guest speakers.
This publication offers a glimpse into the life of the Scandinavian community in Edmonton.
It gives an insight into everyday concerns of the Edmonton Scandinavians, their political
and cultural preoccupations, and their attitudes toward other immigrant communities.
To date no copies of the printed newspaper have been found, but the original hand-written
master copies for the paper have survived and are in very good condition. In 1996
they were presented to the local Sons of Norway Lodge 143, Solglyt, by one of its members, Astrid Hope. She in turn had received the material from a
member of the Lutheran Church that she attended (Domier 2004). The master copies of the articles printed in Vikingen were all entered into large, 300-page legal size volumes before being type-set and
published in the form of a newspaper or newsletter.
While no copies of the paper appear to have been preserved, it is reasonable to assume
that Vikingen actually appeared as a printed paper.
Vikingen is consistently referred to in the two volumes as a “paper.” In any case, Vikingen had both an editor and a co-editor. One year’s subscription cost CAD $8.75, one year’s
back issues CAD $7.77. The newsstand price for one issue was 19.5¢. Ads and announcements
were 11¢ per word (Unsigned article “Oplysning om Bladets formål,” Vikingen, No. 1, 13 Dec 1911, 1). Reports on a strike among the printshop workers in 1912 are a further indication
that Vikingen was type-set and printed.
Towards the end of the paper’s existence, the editor’s office moved from 862 McDougall
Avenue (Vikingen, No. 22, 16 March 1913) to the printing house at 115 Kennedy Street;
to the notice of this move was added the comment “Alle maskjinerne er installerede og færdige til bruk” [All the presses are installed and ready for use] (Unsigned article, Vikingen, No. 42, [n.d.—February 1914?], volume 2, 60).
This essay is based on the hand-written original manuscripts for Vikingen. The hand-written Norwegian texts are cited verbatim, complete with grammatical and
spelling errors, to give the reader a sense of their stylistic peculiarities. The
texts provide a sense of the varying backgrounds and education levels of the contributors.
The English into which the Norwegian is translated is conversely Standard English.
Unfortunately, most of the entries are unsigned. So it is not always easy to orient
oneself among the different contributors to the paper. The Scandinavian community
in Edmonton was of limited size. The authors appear to have supposed that the reader
would be able to identify the contributing writers. There were only 301 Norwegians
in Alberta in 1901 (Loken 76). The 1901 Canadian census gives the following numbers of Scandinavians in Edmonton
||29 (Loken 76)
In the 1906 census the numbers of Scandinavians had increased to
||15 (Domier “Swedes in Edmonton”)
||62 (Domier “Danes in Edmonton”)
||44 (Domier “Nor[wegians] in Edmonton in 1906”)
Vikingen’s hand-written books list the number of members of the Scandinavian Literary Society
between 1905 and 1915 as 73 (Domier “Nor[wegians]—Edmonton 1904”). The Sons of Norway formed Nordpolen Lodge No. 143 on April 21, 1913 (Sønner av Norge Årsbok 1939 28; Domier 2003 1). For the year 1913-1914, they had 49 paying members (Domier “Sons of Norway Members”). Yet these figures may not accurately reflect the number of Norwegians in Edmonton.
Other contemporary sources record a far higher number. In an interview with the Edmonton Bulletin on February 5, 1913, Ludvig Saxe, from Nordmanns Forbundet in Kristiania, comments: “An effort has been made to form a ‘Sons of Norway Society’ in Edmonton, where there
are probably in the neighbourhood of 1,000 Norwegians” (Edmonton Bulletin, 5 February 1913). Probably Saxe included in this number the Norwegians within a radius of 100-150
km of Edmonton, an area where many Norwegian farmers had settled.
World War I came as a severe blow to the lodge, for many of the most active members
were drafted into the army. As was the case with the Skandinaviske Ungdomsforening/Skandinaviske Litterære forening, the activities of Nordpolen almost ceased, since there was little interest in the club during the war. The lodge
was not reorganized until 1927 when it was given the new name Solglyt (Sønner av Norge Årsbok 1939, 28; see also Hansen). The 1914 Henderson’s Directory For Greater Edmonton lists 30 Norwegians in the city (Domier “Nor[wegians] in Edmonton, 1914”).
The Scandinavian community in Edmonton was thus fairly small, but very active, as
many of the local Scandinavians were involved in local Scandinavian cultural events.
The people behind Vikingen were also active in Nordpolen. Its first editor was the warehouseman Haakon E. Floen.
Other contributors were the music professor Alfred Lee (Lie),
the writer Leland, the musician and professor Rolf C. Brekke (Brocke),
the humourist Bowness,
the historian and critic Ola Veggum (Weggum), doctor Knut Finseth,
and G. Sörenson, Nordpolen’s regent (Unsigned article, “Det siste blad,” Vikingen, No. 35, 8 September 1913, 300).
Besides these Scandinavian cultural societies, there were several Scandinavian stores,
such as Stockholm Café at 848 101st
Street, Scandia House at 10139 106th
Street and Swea Fruit Store at 10267 (811) 101st
Street. There were also two Scandinavian Lutheran Churches: the First Scandinavian
Lutheran Church under Rev. T.E. Knudson, founded in 1909 on the corner of Willard
and Gallagher (94th
Street and 109A Avenue), and the United Lutheran Church at 1044 Kinistino (today
Street), under Rev. O.T. Nelson (Domier “Nor[wegians] in Edmonton, 1914” and Domier “Norwegians Founded”). The United Lutheran Church opened October 19, 1913, and became the new meeting place
for the Edmonton Scandinavians (Leland, Vikingen
, No. 36, 21 October 1913, volume 2, 19). Previously, cultural events such as discussion meetings, literature lectures, and
poetry recitals, had been held in the German Lutheran Church. The relations between
the German Lutherans and the less-than-pious Skandinaviske Litterære forening
were not free of conflict. Following some apparently loud festivities in the German
Lutheran Church, the Scandinavians were evicted, forcing them to look for an alternative
Det er nok saa, at det ikke er bare for at lege, vi har vor forening, men lidt uskyldig
moro skader dog ikke. Man skulde næsten fristes til at tro, at man var hensat til
pietistmens mørkeste tider i 1770-80 aarene, naar man hørte kirketjeneren tale om
formegen støi o.s.v.. Hvis det havde været en katolik, som havde en slig opfatning
af kristendommen, skulde jeg ikke sagt eller tænkt saa meget om det; men at en luteraner
skulde se saa mørkt og forvrangt paa sagen, vakte min største forundring.
[While our society does not exist for entertainment purposes alone, a little innocent
fun does not hurt. One is almost tempted to think, that we were brought back to the
darkest times of pietism in the 1770s and 1780s, when we heard the [German Lutheran]
sexton talk about too much noise and so on. Had it been a Catholic, who had such an
attitude about Christianity, I would not have thought or said so much about it; but
that a Lutheran would have such a dark and distorted view caused my greatest surprise.] (Unsigned article, “Hvad Skal vi Gjøre?” Vikingen, No. 21, 19 February 1913, 198)
The question of finding an alternative meeting place to the German Lutheran Church
arose more than once (Unsigned article, Vikingen, No. 19, 8 January 1913, 180; unsigned article, “Hvad Skal vi Gjøre?” Vikingen, No. 21, 19 February 1913, 198). During the period before the completion of the United Lutheran Church the Scandinavian
Literary Society met at the Blue Moon Tea Room (Unsigned article, Vikingen, No. 22, 16 March 1913, 203).
To the Norwegian community, the Lutheran religion was an important identity marker.
Yet religious topics were of secondary concern to Vikingen’s editors. Instead, the most divisive issue in the community was the question of
female suffrage, a debate that was raging across the western world.
was published during the years when the debate was at its most intense. During the
first year of its publication, Vikingen
aggressively and categorically opposed female suffrage, and questioned the very assumption
that women were capable of governing. Yet already towards the end of the period of
publication the aggressive tone of 1911-1912 had mellowed considerably.
Min væsentlige analyse gjaldt om de, af Kvinderne som forlanger almindelig stemmeret
og som besitter de nödvendige qualificationer at udöve dem—om de sat inde med makten
at bruke den … Kvinderne [har] endnu ikke hævdet sig over sin eller mændenes humanitet, —de … tilhörer en falden slægt, og som saadan vilde de knapt være istand til at retfærdigjöre
[The essential question in my analysis is whether those women who demand universal
suffrage and possess the necessary qualifications to exercise it—possess the necessary
strength to use it … Women (have) still not established their claim to their own or to men’s humanity.
They … belong to a fallen tribe, and as such they are hardly qualified to participate in
the (male) political culture.] (Unsigned editorial, Vikingen, No. 6, 17 April, 1912, 53-54)
The opposition to women’s suffrage rested mainly on the argument that change for the
sake of change was not logical. The editor of Vikingen
argued that it would be a grave humiliation to the proud sons of Vikings and conquerors
to be ruled by women. He claimed that history had firmly established women’s intellectual
inferiority to men, and worried that empowering women would return the sons of Norway
to medieval darkness.
Muligens det mest væsentlige, eller det stærkeste argument for eders stemmeret var
at den var indfört i Norge, men i dette var en likesaa væsentlig ufuldstændighet—næmlig
den, at endnu er ikke eders gode frugter af eders stemmeret—der—bleven moden … Forandring for forandringens skyld er ingen logik … Den dag kommer vist aldrig da vi—vikingestammens skud, skulde styres og regjeres
af blöde kvindehænder—eller lulles ind i en diplomatisk sövn af pure kjedelighed.
Om saa da kommer 400 aarig-natten igjen til at ruge ikke over apekatten men over et
folk, som trodde sig selv paa höide med verdens mest fremskredne kulturstater … Jeg vil ikke gaa ind paa nogen navngjerning, eller paabevise den intellecte forskjel
mellen [sic] mand og kvinde. Men saa langt er det vi som har været kulturens bærere,
og civilationens advancegarde.—ikke bare i den materiale verden er udödeligheten i
vor kunst indpræget—men ogsaa i tankens rike har vi bygget verker der höiner og hævder
sig, —og som i dag skinner i morgensolens glands like klart og lysende, som i de
dage da Phidias forskjönner Athenernes Parthenon, og Plato ad tænkningen udroper slægtens
udödelighet—og stadfæster dens gudommelighed.
[Perhaps the most essential, or strongest argument for your suffrage was that it has
been introduced in Norway, yet we have not seen the consequences of this (reform).
The fruits of universal suffrage (in Norway) have still not ripened … Change, for the sake of change, is not logical … That day will certainly never come when we—the descendants of the race of the Vikings,
would be ruled and governed by soft female hands—or be rocked into a diplomatic sleep
of pure boredom. If that happens, the 400-year-night
will again descend on a people, which thought itself equal with the most advanced
civilized countries of the world … I do not want to do any name calling, or prove the intellectual difference between
man and woman. But up until this point it has been (we men) who have been the bearers
of culture, and the avant-garde of civilization. Not only in the material world is
immortality engraved in our art—but also in the realm of thought have we built works
which have risen and hold their ground—and which today shine in the radiance of the
morning sun just as clearly and radiantly as during those days when Phidias decorated
the Parthenon of the Athenians, and Plato through philosophy proclaimed the immortality
of our race—and confirmed its divine nature.] (Unsigned article, Vikingen, No. 6, 17 April 1912, 54-55)
’s editor was particularly concerned about the harm that could be caused by rhetorically
skilled women without the biological endowments needed to think deep thoughts:
Kvinderne er lettalende, undtagelsevis ogsaa veltalende, —men skjelden eller aldrig
dybtænkende. Derfor taler de saa meget og siger saa lidet. Kvinderne i det heletaget
ligner fuglene under himmelen—De tiltaler os ved sit væsen, sin sang og sin flugt.
Vi beundrer deres skarpsindighed i at udvælge en plats for sit rede, samt deres ferdighed
i at bygge det.
[Women speak with ease, in exceptional cases also well—but seldom or never are they
capable of thoughts of any depth. Therefore they talk a great deal but say very little.
On the whole, women resemble the birds of the sky—they appeal to us through their
nature, their song and flight. We admire their acumen in choosing a place for their
nest, as well as their skills in preparing it.] (Unsigned article, Vikingen, No. 6, 17 April 1912, 56)
’s editor feared that women would lose their femininity if voting rights extended
to them. However, he found some comfort in the fact that providence itself was on
the side of the opponents of female suffrage. “Forsynet selv har skabt og indsadt enhver function af skaperverket i sin tilværende
plads; —og uten tvivl var i kvinder tilltænkte at være kvindlige” [Providence itself has created and established each function of creation in its current
place. Women were, without doubt, intended to be feminine] (Unsigned article, Vikingen
, No. 6, 17 April 1912, 56).
The editors reserved particular scorn for British suffragettes, whose militancy editor
Alfred Lee often ridiculed.
Nyligen mødte Canadas literært intereserte kvinder her i byen. Vikingen fik dog ikke en eneste linje fra dem. Havde det vært i Norge, vilde Vikingen vært begravet i skrivepapir. Vi faar imidlertid prise os lykkelige, at vi lever i
det fredlige Canada, hvor kvindene er fromme som duer. Havde et sligt kvindemøde vært
holdt i England, vilde sannsynligvis stadens vinduer faat ungjælde, hvis ikke de smukke
har brugt bomber paa det sterke kjøn forat faa dem under toffelen.
Recently, Canadian women with literary interests met here in the city. Vikingen, though, did not get a single line from them. Had this been in Norway, Vikingen would have been buried in writing paper. Still, we have to praise our good fortune,
that we live in peaceful Canada, where the women are gentle as doves. Had a similar
meeting been held in England, all the windows of the city would have paid a price,
if the fair sex had not used bombs on the strong sex in order to hen-peck it.] (Alfred Lee, “Forskjæl,” Vikingen, No. 28, 17 June 1913, 249)
To be sure, these slurs do not seem to have gone unopposed by the women in the community.
Several women, as well as socialist males in the society expressed their opposition
to these attitudes. “Når kvinden har opnaaet lige rettigheder med manden, vil vi se et renere politisk
liv, et renere socialt liv og mere forstaaelsesfulde hjem” [When women have achieved equal rights with men, we will see a cleanlier political
life, a cleanlier social life and more understanding homes] (Unsigned article, “Kvindens rettigheter i samfundet,” Vikingen, No. 33, 2 August 1913, 290).
The impact of developments in their native country can be seen as the more extreme
opposition to female suffrage was weakened significantly after Norway in 1913 extended
full suffrage rights to women. A number of articles in favour of women’s rights appear
towards the end of the short lifespan of the paper. Some of the articles are written
by women in favour of suffrage and women’s rights. Already the fact that Marie Curie
was awarded the her second Nobel prize, in Physics, in 1911 was seen as a proof that
women indeed were capable of the same achievements as men.
Kvindene [har] virkelig taget en aktiv del i verdensudviklingen på alle områder; udenom
at være mödre til alle de storskoltede mænd som verden har så mange af … Nobelstiftelsens pris blev dette år uddelt til en fransk dame, for hendes opfindelse
af Radium, og forövrigt alle hendes værdifulde opfindelser på medicinens område, og
det påståes at hun af udseende er lig os andre kvinder.
[Women (have) truly taken an active part in the development of the world in all areas,
in addition to being mothers to all those big-headed men, which the world has so many
of … The Prize of the Nobel Committee was this year awarded to a French lady, for her
discovery of Radium, and for all her other valuable discoveries within the field of
medicine, and it is claimed that she looks like all us other women.] (Signature Ærbördigst en Norrøna-jente [Courtesy of a Norrøna girl], “Et svar til Kvindehaderen” [A Reply to the Women-hater], Vikingen, No. 5, March 1912, 44-45)
At a public discussion organized by the literary society, the opponents of female
suffrage found themselves under attack from female members who demanded the same voting
rights in Canada as Norwegian women had already achieved.
The leader on the affirmative side—or the women [sic] side—was Sieverts. He was applauded
from the kitchen, —which by the way is said to be the womens [sic] stronghold—by a
bunch of suffragets [sic], who clearly showed on which side they were. The rattling
of dishes cept [sic] the speakers on the negative side in fear of being made a target
for the furious suffragets [sic], while they were speaking. The coffee and cakes saved
the day for the womens [sic]. Even a bachelor like the president said in closing the
debate on the negative side, that he could smell the coffee and that he would let
the coffee and cakes settle the question. Mr. Sieverts were [sic] told by one of the
fair ones that he decerved [sic] sugar in the coffee for the speech he made for the
womens [sic] cause. The fellows on the negative side got looks from those they were
denying equal right [sic], that was enough to freeze any body [sic] to the backbone.
The secretary of the society had afterwards in the kitchen an awful time explaining
away, why womens [sic] should not have equal rights.
Some of the arguments advanced in favour of female suffrage were based upon notions
of racial hierarchies, which were never questioned by the paper. One of the arguments
advanced was that current Canadian laws treated Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian women
worse than people of “undesirable” races and nationalities. Ironically, racial hierarchy was used as an argument for
promoting equality between the sexes, at least among the “civilized” peoples of Canada. Under the heading “Skulde kvinden have lige retigheter med Manden?” [Should women have the same rights as men?], the “Ole Canuck” writes the following:
Hvorfor ikke give kvinderne de samme rettigheder som manden? Hvorfor giver ikke den
Canadiske rejering homesteads til sine egne döttre, når de giver dem bort til mandfolk—av
nær sagt alle nationer—baade halvvilde og forbrytere. De giver disse siste retigheder
som borgere, mens deres egne kvinder, der kjænder landets forhold, og derfor har betingelser
for at være med at styre landet, saa det kunde gaa fremover baade i den ene og anden
henseende, de nægtes simpelthen disse retigheder.
[Why not give the women the same rights as men? Why doesn’t the Canadian government
give homesteads to their own daughters, when they give them away to men of almost
all nations—both semi-barbarians and criminals? They give these latter people citizenship
rights, while their own women, who know the conditions in the country, and therefore
are well qualified to participate in the governance of the country, so that it could
advance in various respects, are simply denied these rights.] (Vikingen, No. 35, 23 September 1913, volume 2, 3)
As one of these “halvvilde” or “semibarbarian” nations, Vikingen clearly designates the Ukrainians, or the “Russians,” which was the term the paper used to refer to them. Among the major political events
during these years were the two Balkan wars in 1912 and 1913, the first one fought
by (Orthodox) Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Romania against (Muslim) Turkey, the second
one fought by Serbia, Greece and Romania against Bulgaria. Vikingen puts its own spin on these events: “Det er intet under at krigen mellem Balkanstaterne föres med den störste vildhed;
de er alle katolske—og dertil græskkatolsk” [It is no wonder that the wars between the Balkan states are conducted with the utmost
cruelty; they are all Catholics—and Greek Rite Catholics on top of that] (Alfred Lee, Unsigned notice, Vikingen, No. 30, 15 July 1913, 263).
The Scandinavians themselves often felt their race and culture was superior to the
Anglo-Saxon mainstream society and did not like being looked down upon. Often, the
institutionalized racism of the new country provided the Scandinavians with a tool
they were able to use for their own purposes. Even if they generally ended up as second
to the Anglo-Saxons in the ethnic hierarchy in Canada, the Scandinavians were still
counted as one of the “preferred” and assimilable groups of immigrants. They were generally considered superior to
Americans, who often were thought to be contaminated by republicanism, and therefore
held suspect as potential troublemakers and not necessarily worthy of becoming His
Majesty’s subjects. Beneath the Americans were the Slavs and Magyars, who were considered
superstitious and backward. Beneath these, in turn, came the Southern Europeans, such
as Italians and Greeks, who were considered ill-suited for the harsh Canadian climate.
Still further down, were the Jews, thought to be tainted by Russian-inspired radicalism,
not to mention their reputation as perennial outsiders and poor farmers. Closer to
the bottom of the hierarchy came the small communities of Armenians, Sikhs and East
Indians. Lower still were the Chinese and Japanese, who were considered unassimilable;
strong forces wanted to restrict these to British Columbia, or at least keep them
out of the Canadian mainstream society. Below them were the small communities of Blacks
on the prairies, descendants of escaped slaves. At the very bottom of the hierarchy
were the Natives. The French were tolerated as long as they stayed in Quebec. Western
Canada, the home of most Canadian Scandinavians was to be reserved for Anglo-Saxon
or at least protestant farmers (Barber xii-xx).
Emphasizing their glorious Viking past and juxtaposing their own virtues to the perceived
lack of virtues of the “semi-barbarian” peoples from Eastern Europe appear to have been an attempt by the Scandinavians to
establish themselves as “good” Canadians, without giving up too much of their own identity. Indeed, the Scandinavians
assimilated quickly and lost their languages as they became Canadianized, often within
the second generation. Adopting some of the stereotypes of the Anglo-Saxon society
helped the Scandinavians to establish their Canadian credentials and assert their
place in the ethnic hierarchy, easing their entry into the Canadian mainstream.
The Scandinavian self-image was one of brave pioneers, explorers and risk-takers.
They identified with the Vikings and saw the resurrected Norway as an embodiment of
a “Viking spirit.” A highlight of the pre-war intellectual life of the Edmonton Scandinavian Community,
was Roald Amundsen’s visit to the city in May, 1913.
Den 22de Mai holdt kaptein Amundsen et foredrag og fremviste lysbilleder fra sin færd
til sydpolen. Foredraget holdtes i Methodistkirken. Paa en jevn og ligefrem maade
fortalte han efterhvert som billederne kom frem om sin reise over isvidderne. Man
kunde næsten fristes til at tro, det var en lystreise, hvis man ikke hørte om de uhyre
afstande og det barske klima. De uhyre store, vilde og enformige ismarker, taler,
desuden sit tørre (?) sprog, om hvor stor udholdenhed, styrke og dygtighet der skal
til forat naa sydpolen. Scott expeditionens skjæbne og de andre nationers mislykkende
forsøg på at naa polen, syner frem hvod stof det var i dise norske.
[On May 22, Captain Amundsen delivered a lecture and showed slides from his journey
to the South Pole. The lecture was held in the Methodist Church. In a calm and dispassionate
way he showed slides of his journey across the desolate icy plains, commenting on
each picture. One would almost have been tempted to believe that this was a pleasure
trip, had we not been reminded of the incredible distances and the harsh climate.
The incredibly vast, wild and monotonous ice-fields speak in plain language about
the great tenacity, strength and skill needed to reach the South Pole. The disaster
of the Scott expedition and the failed attempts of other nations to reach the Pole
show what kind of spirit these Norwegians possess. ] (“Roald Amundsen,” Vikingen, No. 27, 6 June 1913, 246)
The glorious past and the virtuous present of Norway was often contrasted to the perceived
lack of virtues of other immigrant groups, Slavs in particular.
There were both economic and political reasons behind the resentment of Slavic immigrants.
The influx of unskilled labourers from Eastern Europe kept wages down and weakened
the bargaining position of the Scandinavian immigrant labourers. The Norwegians in
Alberta tried to lobby the Liberal Party to prevent reduction of their wages through
the “dumping” effect created by the influx of cheap Eastern European labour.
Her Smith skulde … ordne og advertere alle sociale sammenkomster som fra tid til anden maatte arrangeres
inden den den [sic] norske koloni—före det liberale parties sag under en valgkamp
modtage penge fra det liberale parti baade her og i Ottawa afvende og forhindre russere
i at komme her ut og arbeide for 1.50 per dag sælge avertissementer indkræve penge
for samme samt i det heletaget at löfte det norske i sociale sammenkomster baade her
i byen og ute ved Holden og Ryly [sic].
[Mr. Smith … was supposed to organize and advertize all social gatherings which from time to time
need to be organized within the Norwegian community—and to promote the cause of the
Liberal Party during the election campaign. (We need to raise) money for the Liberal
Party both here and in Ottawa, in order to prevent the Russians from coming here to
work for $1.50 a day. (We need) to sell advertisements, collect money for this purpose
and generally promote things Norwegian in social gatherings both here in the city
and out in Holden and Ryley.] (Co-editor, “Vikingens Standhaftighed,” Vikingen, No. 42, n.d., volume 2, 84)
The political leanings of the wave of of Scandinavian immigrants to Canada around
the turn of the century were generally left-of-centre. The political divide within
the Scandinavian community in Edmonton at this time appears to have run between liberals
and socialists, reflecting the social backgrounds of the immigrants. The Liberal Party
attracted many immigrant votes. But populist Christian ideas, prohibitionism and anarchism
appear to have exercised significant attraction. During the last few months prior
to the outbreak of World War I, socialist and anti-war voices were heard in the paper.
Kampen staar nu mellom det kapitalistisk-militæristiske ideal og det socialistiske.
De er samfundets to poler. Socialistene faar stadig høre af sine modstandere at de
er fædrelandsløse. Det er ikke sandt. Men der er en forskel i opfatningen av fædrelandet
og dets stilling, som de andre partier ikke er opmerksom på. De maaler socialisterne
med sine egne gamle maal … Et folk, som frygter krig og ser sig omgit av fare er let at regjere. Det er lydigt
og offervilligt … Rustninger føder krig, og krig avler ny krig. At ville avskaffe krigen ved stadig
økede rustninger er at utdrive satan ved Belzebub. Det er noget graadig ved militærvennernes
fædrelandsfølelse. De ønsker sit eget fædreland stort og mægtigt selv om det gaar
ud over andres fædreland. Socialistenes syn kan formes slik: Mit fædrelands ret ophører
der andres fædreland begynder … Respekter andres fædreland, som du vil at andre skal respektere dit. Her er kjernepunktet
i socialistenes fædrelandsfølelse.
[The struggle is between the capitalist-militarist ideal and the socialist ideal. They
are the two poles in society. Socialists constantly hear from their opponents that
they are without a homeland. That is not true. But there is a difference in the perception
of the homeland and its position, which the other parties do not notice. They portray
the Socialists in the light of their own old standards … A people that fears war and sees itself surrounded by danger is easy to rule. It
is obedient and prepared to sacrifice. Armaments give birth to war, and war generates
new war. To want to abolish war by perpetually increased armaments is to drive out
Satan with Beelzebub. There is something voracious about the patriotism of the militarists.
They wish to see their own homeland great and powerful even if it causes the homeland
of others to suffer. The view of the Socialists can be articulated thus: the rights
of my homeland end where the homeland of others begins … Respect other people’s homeland, as you would want others to respect yours. This
is the central point in the patriotism of the socialist.] (Einar Lunde, “En tale af grosserer Einar Lunde,” Vikingen, No. 44 (n.d. [June 1914?]), volume 2, 97-99)
Supporters of the Canadian Liberals were impressed by William Jennings Bryan and the
Democrats in the United States, a country through which many of the Alberta Scandinavians
Naar vi saa betænker, at han [Bryan] er en sand og opriktig kristen vil vi forstaa,
hvorfor Wilsons administration allerede har magtet at udføre saa meget godt arbeide
… Wilson er selv total afholdsmand og bruger aldrig sterke drikke i sit hjem. Men Bryan
gaar saa vidt, at han ved sine officielle banketter og middage, aldrig sætter vin
eller andre sterke drikke paa sit bord. Gjæstene maa derfor nöie sig med almindelig
ugjæret druesaft … De, som saaledes forsvarer en last i frihedens navn, ved ikke hvad frihed er. Thi
frihed er ikke fri anledning til at gjöre alt, som falder en i sinde, men dermed menes,—fri
anledning at gjøre hvad en ved eller tror er ret … Frihed til at stjæle eller gjøre andet galt findes ikke. Dersom anledning dertil
gaves for nogen, vilde der blive alt andet end frihed for andre. Naar vi derfor taler
om frihed mener vi frihed for samfundet, ikke frihed for individet, paa samfundets
bekostning … Dersom drukkenskap er en last, er den moralisk talt,—en forbrydelse og burde forbydes.
Den eneste virksomme maade at forbyde den paa er at stanse tilvirkning af berusende
drikke. Først naar dette sker, faar vi frihed, hvad drukkenskap angaar … Men siger mange, det er ikke bra at diktere til nogen, hvad man skal drikke eller
ikke drikke, det har vi ikke ret til. Men kjære dere, har vi ikke ret til at forbyde
hvemsomhelst at drikke sig ihjæl paa gift, eller forgifte andre? Andre mener som saa,
at det faar komme an paa ens egen vilje og behag enten man vil ødelægge sig med sterke
drikke eller ei. Faar man man [sic] denne frihed, vælger man sikkert ædruelighed eller
maadehold. Ja saaledes er det anarkistene tænker om alle andre forbrydelser.
[When we then consider that he (Bryan) is a true and sincere Christian, we will understand
why Wilson’s administration already has managed to accomplish so much good work … Wilson himself is a complete teetotaler and never uses strong drinks in his home.
But Bryan goes so far, during his official banquets and dinners, as never to put wine
or other strong drinks on his table. The guests therefore have to be content with
regular, unfermented, grape juice … Those who thus defend a vice in the name of freedom, do not know what freedom is.
Because freedom is not a free opportunity to do everything that comes into your head,
but rather by that is meant—the free opportunity to do what you know or believe to
be right … Freedom to steal and do other wrong things does not exist. If the opportunity for
this were to be given to someone it would be everything but freedom for others. Therefore,
when we speak about freedom, we mean freedom for society, not freedom for the individual
at the expense of society … Since drunkenness is a vice, it is, morally speaking, a crime, and ought to be forbidden.
The only effective way to prohibit it is to stop the production of intoxicating drinks.
Only when this happens, will we have freedom, as far as drunkenness is concerned … But, many say, it is not good to dictate to anybody what he should drink or not drink,
that we do not have the right to do. But, dear people, don’t we have the right to
prohibit anybody at all from drinking himself to death on poison or to poison others?
Other people are of the opinion that it should be up to the individual if he wants
to ruin himself with strong drinks or not. If one has this freedom, certainly he would
choose soberness or moderation. Indeed, that is the way the anarchists think about
all other crimes.] (Unsigned article, “Nogle ting som yderverdenen kan lære os,” Vikingen, No. 27, 2 June 1913, 240-43)
Politically, the Edmonton Norwegians seem to be fairly representative of the Norwegian-Canadians
on the prairies. What is noteworthy is that even moderate socialists who favoured
a republican form of government identified with the newly established Norwegian monarchy.
However, enthusiasm for Norwegian royalty did not extend to the British monarchy and
political rituals, which were seen as archaic or alien to the Scandinavian immigrants.
When the new legislative building in Edmonton opened, Vikingen
’s correspondent had the following to say:
Vice guvernören, inhylled i sin guldbroderede klær, forekom mig nesten som en sardin
i en blikdaase. Dragten har til sine tider havt mere værdighed end den som bar den.
Det ser dog i et hvert tilfælde lit naragtigt ut. Salen er udstyret med malerier av
kongen og droningen og en del poletikkere, Nei undskyld: - statsmænd … Vice guvernören oplæste åbningstalen sittende, mens forsamlingen måtte staa. Dette
forekom mig noget despotiskt.
[The lieutenant governor, wrapped in his gold-embroidered clothes, appeared to me like
a sardine in a tin. The costume has from time to time had more dignity than the one
who wore it. In any case, it looks a little ridiculous. The assembly hall is decorated
with paintings of the King and Queen and a few politicians—excuse me—statesmen … The lieutenant governor read the opening address sitting, while the deputies had
to stand. This struck me as somewhat despotic.] (Unsigned article, “Alberta’s Parlament åbnes,” Vikingen, No. 35, 23 September 1913, volume 2, 4-5)
embraced a number of different viewpoints, the editorial position was less flexible
and it generated a considerable opposition. Indeed, there was an attempt made to establish
a rival Norwegian paper in Edmonton.
Vikingen er fremdeles nordmændenes sterkeste organ her i Edmonton. Der har været gjort flere
forsök paa at begynde en avis som opposisjon imot Vikingen men endnu har alle forsök strandet. For et par aar siden kom en af Norrönas redaksjons styrke herrud og begynde at ruske i den norske presse og ligne actier
for et nyt norskt blad men Vikingens koldblodighed og bestemte optræden likeoverfor en rival tok modet væk endog fra
det politiske geni hr. Liljan og fölgen blev at den norske settler döde en naturlig död og begroves i Winnipeg i 1912. Vikingens medredactor fik liksom en opreisning ved den norske settlers hedengang.
[Vikingen is the strongest organ of the Norwegians here in Edmonton. Several attempts have
been made to start a paper in opposition to Vikingen but so far all attempts have failed. A couple of years ago one of the strongmen of
Norröna’s editorial board came out here and began shaking up the Norwegian press and assessing
stocks for a new Norwegian paper but the coldbloodedness and firm stance of Vikingen toward a rival took away the courage from even that political genius Mr. Liljan and
as a result the the Norwegian Settler died a natural death and was buried in Winnipeg in 1912. The co-editor of Vikingen gained a sort of satisfaction at the demise of the Norwegian Settler.] (Alfred Lee, “Vikingens Standhaftighed,” Vikingen, No. 42, n.d., volume 2, 82.)
In regard to Norway and “Norwegianness,” many of Vikingen
’s articles were intensely patriotic. The Norwegian achievement of full independence
in 1905 was a source of immense national pride.
Maalet er naaet! Og idag staar vort land — Norge, som det frieste blandt frie riker
paa jord. Og under glandsen af sin borgerkrands, kan nordmæn, med fryd, se tilbage
paa sit folks — og lands udvikling i det aarhundrede, som svinder.
[The goal is achieved! And today our country—Norway, stands as the freest among free
nations on earth. And in the civil wreath of its independence can the Norwegians,
with joy, look back upon the past century, (the successes of which) make us dizzy.] (Alfred Lee, “Vort National Minde!” Vikingen, No. 7, 8 May 1912, 64-65)
Yet the fact that Canadian society regarded Scandinavians as model immigrants was
not only a source of pride. The cultural proximity to the Anglo-Saxon mainstream was
also problematic. In particular, Vikingen
’s editors worried about the future of the Norwegian language, which was seen by first-generation
immigrants as a carrier of Norwegian identity. The Norwegian language was soon pushed
aside and replaced by English.
Hvilken fremmed klang for mange norskfødte amerikanere. Hvilken afstand mellem det
at tænke sig selv en patriot og det at være det. Den norske patriotisme; — jeg mener
den, vi praktiserer over her,— er i sig selv et saa skuffende blendværk, at den mangler
ofte det mindste fnug til inspiration … At vi ikke er patrioter, merker sig først i vort sprok. Sproket er i mange henseende
barometeret for et folks patriotisme og mer; den er det ogsaa for en nations kulturtrin.
Intet folk er bleven beseiret som har bevaret sit sprok … Engelsk maa vi tale, skal vi tale pent—engelsk maa brukes, naar der tales stykt.
Ja, det er jo de “smartes” og lærdes sprok — og hvem er det ikke som ei vil være lærd?
sproklig? … Hos mange gjælder det at tale “brokent” og halvblandet norsk forat bevise sin “superioriet”
i engelsk … Det er i det hele mangel paa finere aandsdannelse som gjør, at vi ikke skatter det
sprok, som vore store mænd har brukt … At reise det norske flag over et folk, som har forglemt sit folk og sit lands pligter,
What an alien sound for many Norwegian-born Americans. What a distance between thinking
of oneself as a patriot and (actually) being one. Norwegian patriotism—I mean the
one we practice over here—is in itself such a disappointing delusion, that it often
lacks the least particle of inspiration … That we are not patriots is first noticed in our language. Language is in many respects
the barometer for the patriotism of a people and more—it also is an indicator a nation’s
cultural level. No people, which has retained its language has ever been defeated
… We have to use English, when we want to speak politely—and we have to use English,
when we want to speak nastily. No doubt, (English) is the language of the “smart”
and learned—and who does not want to (appear) learned, and fluent in English? … Some think it necessary to speak “brokent,” mangled Norwegian in order to prove their
superiority in English … On the whole, it is our lack of more refined culture that makes us not treasure the
language, which our great men have used … It is a mockery to raise the Norwegian flag over a people that has forgotten itself
and the duties of its country. ] (Alfred Lee, “Patriotisme,” Vikingen, No. 25, May 13, 1913, 221-23)
Recently arrived immigrants were struggling to fit in, hiding their Norwegian accents,
while at the same time feeling an urge to pass on their culture to their children.
Their children, in turn, saw the trouble that their parents encountered as due to
their limited command of English, and often attempted to distance themselves from
the “ethnic” culture of their parents, and be as “Canadian” as possible. Many of the first-generation immigrants had a hard time adjusting to
the fact that their own children often turned their backs on the culture of their
ancestors. As a result of this, the Edmonton Norwegians eagerly lobbied to have Norwegian
introduced at the newly opened University of Alberta (Unsigned article, “Vort sprok!” Vikingen No. 42, (n.d. [Feb. 1914?]), 74). But besides the social stigma of speaking broken English, there were economic reasons
for the decline of the Norwegian language in Alberta.
Along with the tributes to the Norwegian language, the paper contained articles which
debated whether the use of the Norwegian language ought to be discontinued in the
local church. The very last issue of Vikingen suggested that switching the language of service from Norwegian to English might
lead to an enlargement of the congregation through attracting people from outside
the Scandinavian community, and that this would lead in turn to an increased cash
flow from churchgoers. It also indicates that the local Scandinavians may have been
less pious than other ethnic groups. “[A]ntage at disse vilde komme till kirken en gang hver søndag, og at tyskere, danskerne,
og russerne gav henholdvis 25, 20, og 10 cent hver og svenskene og norskene vilde
give 5 ¢ hver til den kirkelige kasse” [Assume that these would come to church every Sunday, and that the Germans, Danes,
and Russians would give an estimated 25, 20 and 10 cents each whereas the Swedes and
Norwegians put 5 cents each in the collection box] (Unsigned article, “Burde det norske sprok avskaffes i vort kirkearbeite?,” Vikingen, No. 45, 14 July 1914, volume 2, 107).
The next issue of Vikingen was scheduled to be published July 28, 1914, the same day Archduke Franz Ferdinand
and his wife traveled down the streets of Sarajevo in an open car. The bullets of
Gavrilo Pricip put an end to both their lives. Within a week Europe was at war. Great
Britain and Canada declared war on Germany on August 4. With the outbreak of World
War I the old order, which George Steiner has described as the “imagined garden of liberal culture” (5), came to an end. The repercussions of this were soon felt in Edmonton and other outskirts
of the British Empire. Vikingen did not go to print as scheduled on July 28, 1914. In the climate of Anglo-Saxon
nativism foreign-language papers and publications appeared suspect, particularly those
published in a Germanic language. Many of the most active members in the Edmonton
Norwegian community went to Europe to fight in the war. Among them were Haakon Floen,
who lost a leg at the Somme (“Haakon E. Floen Dies May 8, 1938,” Edmonton Bulletin May 9, 1938). The war led to the dissolution of the Scandinavian Literary Society and the cessation
of the activities of Nordpolen lodge (Domier “History of Sons of Norway in Edmonton”).
While the Scandinavians, as a “preferred” group of immigrants, experienced fewer difficulties than other ethnic groups, they
were subjected to certain discrimination, often based on accusations of pro-German
sentiments (Ljungmark 165, Strickton 44). However, the Scandinavians escaped some of the ordeals of other communities like
the Ukrainians, Germans and Hungarians, many of whom lost their jobs, were deported
or interned or had their lives threatened, a discrimination that in many cases extended
to those who were naturalized British citizens.
The war changed the political atmosphere and led to a significant decline in Scandinavian
cultural and social life in Canada. Furthermore, it exacerbated certain divisions
among Scandinavian Canadians, reflecting the traditional division in political orientation
between Sweden and Norway. While Sweden oriented itself towards Prussia and Germany,
Norway was more pro-British. The attitudes of the Norwegian-Canadian community were,
in general, more positive to the war effort. Individual members of the Norwegian community
in Edmonton made enormous personal sacrifices for their adopted country. An initiative
from the Norwegian community led to the creation of a Scandinavian battalion in Winnipeg.
The Swedes, on the other hand, remained cool towards the war effort. Reflecting this
reality, the leading Swedish newspaper in Canada, Svenska Canada-Tidningen opposed the war draft (Ljungmark 171). Along with the French Canadians, the Swedish Canadian community were among the most
vocal opponents of this measure (Theobald 1-19). When the draft was introduced in July, 1917, Svenska Canada-Tidningen advised its readers how naturalized British citizens could regain Swedish citizenship
(Ljungmark 171, citing Svenska Canada-Tidningen October 31, 1917). It protested the government’s revoking of voting rights for immigrants from the
Habsburg and German Empires, who had been naturalized after 1902, as “shameful” and “an attack” on the people of German descent (Ljungmark 172, citing Svenska Canada-Tidningen July 25 and September 12, 1917). During the first years of World War I, many Swedish- and Norwegian-Americans left
Canada, returning to a neutral United States, seeking an environment more accepting
and less tense than that in war-time Canada. This changed when the United States entered
the war in 1917.