Women's and Children's Stories

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

by Þórdís Edda Guðjónsdóttir


A black and white photo of seven Icelandic women in North Dakota, circa 1915
Unknown Icelandic women from North Dakota

A small team of Icelandic Roots volunteers is working on a project called Women's and Children's Stories. The team is putting the focus on the voices of women and children, their lives and experiences, in order to preserve the story of Icelandic women and children in North America. There are many stories out there that need to be told, and we need your help to do that. We need more tales, anecdotes, and stories of the everyday life of women and children who found themselves in a new and different environment.

The timeframe we are focusing on is the 1855-1915 emigration period. The stories will be added to the database and used for various projects such as blog posts, podcasts, documentaries, exhibitions, etc. Some of you have sent us your family stories, and for that, we thank you.


Below are a few examples of questions that can help jog your memory, but it is not necessary to follow all these questions as we value a variety of experiences and welcome all stories.

Even though the questions are categorized here, they can be used for both women's and children's stories.


Women:

  • Women who emigrated from Iceland.

  • Did they go alone? Why?

  • Did they go with a family member? Who?

  • How old were they when they left?

  • When did they leave?

  • Where did they leave from?

  • Where did they arrive?

  • What was their final destination?

  • Did they move around a lot? Why?

  • How old were they?

  • What was their everyday life like in the new country?

  • Did they have a job?

  • What kind of job?

  • Where did they live?

  • Did they move around a lot?

  • Did they have certain chores or roles in their homes?

  • What were their wins and losses, happiness and sadness, love and fears?

  • What was their social life like?

  • What did they do for fun?

  • Did they join a club?

  • What kind of club?

  • How well did they learn the English language?

  • How did they learn?

  • Did they have to anglicize their names?

  • What did it change into? Why?

  • Did they stay in touch with family in Iceland?

  • If not, then why?

  • Did they seek education?

  • What did they study? Where?

  • How did they do?

  • What are examples of women/children with extreme poverty in Iceland who were able to rise up through education or working hard in North America?


Unidentified photos from North Dakota collections.


Children:

  • Children who emigrated from Iceland with their parents, siblings, or other family members.

  • Did they have any fears of moving to another country?

  • How did they feel?

  • How old were they when they arrived?

  • Where did they arrive?

  • Children who emigrated from Iceland without their parents.

  • How did they feel?

  • Did they have any fears?

  • Did they see their family again?

  • How old were they when they arrived?

  • Where did they arrive?

  • What was their final destination?

  • Children who were left behind in Iceland when their family emigrated.

  • Why did they stay?

  • Illness?

  • Not enough money to bring everyone?

  • They did not want to leave their grandparents?

  • Would they stay to manage the farm?

  • How did they feel seeing their family leave?

  • Did they reunite with their family later?

  • What was it like to be left behind in Iceland and grow up here without their parents?

  • Everyday life of a child.

  • What did they do?

  • Did they have a job?

  • Did they have a certain chore at home or play a certain role?

  • Play and games they played.

  • What was fun?

  • What games did they play?

  • Were there any new games they learned?

  • Did they have any toys?

  • What kind of toys?

  • Education.

  • What was their education like?

  • Did they attend school?

  • For how long?

  • What did they learn?

  • Learning the language.

  • How well did they learn the English language?

  • How did they learn?

  • Did they have to anglicize their names?

  • What did it change into?

  • Why?

  • Did they have a nickname?

For more examples of questions on stories, please see this previous blog post on this project written by Bryndís Víglundsdóttir.


Can you help us? Do you know any stories from your family? They do not need to be long or literary masterpieces.

If you have stories or further questions, please send them to support@icelandicroots.com with the subject line "Women and Children's Stories."


All stories of women and children are highly appreciated.

Let the voices of the women and children be heard!