The ethnic group which I belong to and have decided to write about is the Finnish. Finnish immigrants came over much later than the “old immigrants”, and faced many prejudices because of this. The Finns had to work harder than immigrants that came before them to gain the same resources. My great grandmother Eva was one hundred percent Finnish and I loved hearing her stories of the old country. She was only six when she arrived at Ellis Island with her parents in search of a better life as many others did. Every day she would get a copy of the Finnish paper delivered to our house. My great grandmother would anxiously wait for this as it made her feel like she was home. One of the things I remember the most about her is the story she would tell of her birth. In Finland in that time period woman had their babies in steam houses. These steam houses were a huge part of the Finnish culture. Listening to her speak of her coming to America was amazing. She experienced discrimination because she spoke absolutely no English. She overcame some of the prejudices when she was able to speak clear English. Eva was always proud to talk about the day her family arrived in America. Emigration of the Finnish did not happen till mid nineteenth century after many other ethnic groups had already established themselves in America. This led to discrimination of the Finnish as many thought they had no part in making the American Republic but came over once everything was done. [ (Reino, 1976) ] They were given the label of the “new immigrants” which was a leading role in how the Finnish settled in America. Sticking together was one of their only resources against the prejudices they faced. Most of the Finnish coming over were looking for work as farmers. Many could not afford proper land and this caused a meager outcome of what they could grow. Construction work was also a large part of what the Finnish did. They were workers that used their hands as their income. [ (M, 2010) ] Another reason which separated the Finnish from others was the great language barrier. Like many other cultures they formed their own organizations because of this. They formed their own church congregations which made the transition somewhat easier on them. As they stayed close to their own it caused a sense of segregation. Some Americans believed the Finns actually discriminated against us not realizing the language barrier was a huge obstacle for the Finnish to overcome. [ (Reino, 1976) ] The Finnish were also much more educated than other immigrants that came before them. They were able to read and write which many other cultures could not do. The Finnish possessed the skills of organization. This helped immensely in the Finnish becoming one of the largest radical immigrant groups in America for a period of time. [ (Reino, 1976) ] The Finnish-American labour movement was great in finding valuable leaders to try to make change. This was also successful due to the fact that many immigrants were part of the labor movement in Finland. This helped lay the foundation for them in coming to America. In today’s society there are hardly any remnants of the Finnish culture left. It is sad to see that such a great culture has been slowly falling apart. The Finnish language is almost extinct in America today. The handful of Finnish immigrants that are left have had to watch their heritage deteriorate. There is one aspect of the culture that is still relevant in our society today which is their beloved steam houses.
I will never forget the steps my ancestors have had to take to become part of America. Many faced discrimination and racism in their everyday life. Hardships of leaving their home country because of poverty and starting over in a new country were great. I am thankful for the steps that were taken to allow me to be born as a citizen of The United States of America
M, B. (2010). Immigration challenges for Finns, Poles. The Finnish American Reporter , 20.
Reino, K. (1976, November). Finnish Immigrants in the United States. Retrieved December 19, 2010, from http://www.genealogia.fi/emi/art/article234e.htm