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July 23, 2020

Votes for Women

Filed under: History, Women's History — Alison Aten @ 10:41 am

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Minnesota Historical Society Press is proud to publish books and articles that celebrate Minnesota women who shifted the political landscape before and after the passage of the 19th Amendment.

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Gentle Warriors by Barbara Stuhler

Books:

Turnout: Making Minnesota the State that Votes, by Joan Growe with Lori Sturdevant (Available 8/11/20)

The Privilege for Which We Struggled, by Heidi Bauer

Gentle Warriors: Clara Ueland and the Minnesota Struggle for Woman Suffrage, by Barbara Stuhler

Minnesota Voter ID and the National Debate, by Jim Ragsdale (e-book only)

Minnesota History Magazine

Minnesota History October 2020 Double Issue on Suffrage

Bloomberg, Kristin Mapel, and Erin Parrish, The Political Equality Club of Minneapolis (Fall 2006)

Christie, Jean, Sarah Christie Stevens, Schoolwoman (Spring 1983)

Evans, Sara M., Toward a Usable Past: Feminism as History and Politics (Summer 1983)

Green, William D., Minnesota’s Long Road to Black Suffrage 1849-1868 (Summer 1998)

Lief, Julia Wiech, A Woman of Purpose: Julia B. Nelson (Winter 1981)

Peterson, Anna Marie, Adding “A Little Suffrage Spice to the Melting Pot”: Minnesota’s Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association (Winter 2011)

Pruitt, Mary C., “Lady Organizer”: Sabrie G. Akin and the Labor World (Summer 1991)

Register, Cheri, When Women Went Public: Feminist Reforms in the 1970s (Summer 2008)

Riley, Glenda, In or Out of the Historical Kitchen?: Interpretations of Minnesota Rural Women (Summer 1990)

Simpkins, Dave, Sinclair Lewis: Suffragent (Winter 2015)

Solberg, Winton U., Martha G. Ripley: Pioneer Doctor and Social Reformer (Spring 1964)

Sommerdorf, Norma, Harriet E. Bishop: A Doer and a Mover (Fall 1997)

Stuhler, Barbara, Organizing for the Vote: Leaders of Minnesota’s Woman Suffrage Movement (Fall 1995)

MNopedia:

African American Suffrage in Minnesota, 1868

American Woman Suffrage Association Convention, Minneapolis, 1885

Dorsett, Martha (1851–1918)

Hough, Sue Metzger Dickey (ca. 1882–1980)

Minnesota Female Suffrage Bill, 1870

Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association

Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial, St. Paul

Nelson, Julia Bullard (1842–1914)

Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in Minnesota

Ripley, Martha George (1843–1912)

Scandinavian Woman Suffrage Association


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June 15, 2020

African American History in Minnesota

Filed under: African American — Alison Aten @ 4:52 pm

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On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis police officers murdered George Floyd on the streets of South Minneapolis. The events of that evening and the weeks since have shone a spotlight on the systemic racism and institutionalized violence that has permeated Minnesota for more than 150 years, going back to the pre-statehood era. The history of Minnesota is replete with examples of oppression and discrimination directed against its African American citizens, but African American history in the state is also a history of perseverance, creativity, and leadership by Black Minnesotans. MNHS Press is proud to offer a selection of books and articles that explore and illuminate African American history in our state.

#blacklivesmatter
#blackhistorymatters


MNHS PRESS BOOKS

African Americans in Minnesota, by David V. Taylor

Blues Vision: African American Writing from Minnesota, edited by Alexs Pate, Pamela Fletcher, and J. Otis Powell‽

A Choice of Weapons, by Gordon Parks

The Days of Rondo, by Evelyn Fairbanks

Diesel Heart: An Autobiography, by Melvin Whitfield Carter Jr.

Double Exposure: Images of Black Minnesota in the 1940s, photography by John Glanton

Dred and Harriet Scott: A Family’s Struggle for Freedom, by Gwenyth Swain

Fredrick L. McGhee: A Life on the Color Line, 1861-1912, by Paul D. Nelson

The Girls Are Coming, by Peggie Carlson

A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, edited by Sun Yung Shin

The Lynchings in Duluth, by Michael Fedo

Minnesota’s Black Community in the 21st Century, edited by Anthony R. Scott, Dr. Chaunda L. Scott, and Dr. Charles E. Crutchfield III

A Peculiar Imbalance: The Fall and Rise of Racial Equality in Early Minnesota, by William D. Green

The Scott Collection: Minnesota’s Black Community in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, by Walter R. Scott Sr.

Sights, Sounds, Soul: The Twin Cities Through the Lens of Charles Chamblis, photography by Charles Chamblis, text by Davu Seru

Slavery’s Reach: Southern Slaveholders in the North Star State, by Christopher Lehman

They Played for the Love of the Game: Untold Stories of Black Baseball in Minnesota, by Frank M. White


SELECTED MNOPEDIA ARTICLES

African Americans in Minnesota

Southside African American Community, Minneapolis

African Americans (Spotlight)

African American Civil Liberties (Spotlight)

Racism, Police, and Civil Unrest (Spotlight)


SELECTED MINNESOTA HISTORY ARTICLES

“Minnesota’s Long Road to Black Suffrage 1849-1868,” by William D. Green

“The Perils of Peace: Frederick Douglass, Winona, and Civil Rights in Minnesota after the Civil War,” by Wayne Ganaway

“Black Cloud: The Struggles of St. Cloud’s African American Community, 1880-1920,” by Christopher Lehman

“Loyalty Within Racism: The Segregated Sixteenth Battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard During World War I,” By Peter J. DeCarlo

“Labor, Politics, and African American Identity in Minneapolis, 1930-1950,” by Jennifer A. Delton

“Roy Wilkins in Minnesota: Remembering a Civil Rights Hero,” by Lisa Heinrich

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March 27, 2020

Asian Americans in Minnesota

Filed under: Asian American — Alison Aten @ 10:10 am

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Asian immigrants and Asian Americans have been making invaluable contributions to Minnesota’s culture, community, and history since the earliest days of statehood, often in the face of racism, discrimination, and stigma. This MNopedia and Minnesota History story of Liang May Seen and her husband Woo Yee Sing shows the struggles and perseverance of the earliest Chinese immigrants to Minnesota.

Minnesota is great today because of the contributions of all of its people, and it is important to remember that ethnicity is not a virus.

Read more about the history of Asian Americans in Minnesota with the following titles:

Chinese in Minnesota

Hmong in Minnesota

Koreans in Minnesota

Chinese-ness: The Meanings of Identity and the Nature of Belonging

Staring Down the Tiger: Stories of Hmong American Women

The Bride Price: A Hmong Wedding Story

Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans

Hmong and American: From Refugees to Citizens

A People’s History of the Hmong

Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota

More links to resources about Chinese Americans in Minnesota:

Library Guide: Chinese in Minnesota Overview

Oral Histories: Chinese immigrants in MinnesotaMinnesota Chinese Oral History Project

Minnesota History: Mirrored Identities: The Moys of St. PaulYang T’Su: Chinese Altar from Minneapolis

Collection Finding Aids: Weiming Lu

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June 15, 2019

Award-winning Ojibwe Scholar Brenda J. Child Details the History and Significance of the Jingle Dress Dance–Featured as Today’s Google Doodle!

Filed under: Authors, Native American — Alison Aten @ 9:49 am

Powwow season is in full swing. Did you know that one of the most popular traditional dances was inspired by a dream given to the Ojibwe people during a global health crisis?

One hundred years ago in 1918-1919 when the global influenza pandemic killed millions worldwide, including thousands of Native Americans, a revolutionary new tradition of healing emerged in Ojibwe communities in North America: the jingle dress dance. Oral histories vary on where exactly the jingle dress first appeared, but the Mille Lacs community in Minnesota was a center of activity.

Ojibwe scholar Professor Brenda J. Child of the University of Minnesota recounts the origin story of the jingle dress dance and the significance of the dance as a powerful healing tradition and act of anti-colonialist resistance and female empowerment in her award-winning book, My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation (MNHS Press).

In the book she recounts:

“An Ojibwe girl became very sick. She appeared to be near death. Her father, fearing the worst, sought a vision to save her life, and this was how he learned of a unique dress and dance. The father made this dress for his daughter and asked her to dance a few springlike steps, in which one foot was never to leave the ground. Before long, she felt stronger and kept up the dance. After her recovery, she continued to dance in the special dress, and eventually she formed the first Jingle Dress Dance Society.”

Child notes that the story suggests an influenza-like illness, making is possible that the first jingle dress dancer suffered from the widespread epidemic of Spanish flu during the World War I era. She writes:

“Although a man conceived the Jingle Dress Dance after receiving a vision, women were responsible for its proliferation … Once the influenza epidemic struck, women applied the ceremony like a salve to fresh wounds. They designed jingle dresses, organized sodalities, and danced at tribal gatherings large and intimate, spreading a new tradition while participating in innovative rituals of healing. Special healing songs are associated with the jingle dress, and both songs and dresses possess a strong therapeutic value. Women who participate in the Jingle Dress Dance and wear these special dresses do so to ensure the health and well-being of an individual, a family, or even the broader tribal community.”

Her book also highlights the design and construction of the jingle dress and how the dance has spread throughout and beyond Ojibwe Country. Today jingle dress is a popular dance form on the competitive powwow circuit and is performed by Native women with a variety of tribal affiliations.

Child also recently curated an exhibit on the history of the jingle dress to marks its 100th anniversary at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post in Onamia. Featuring jingle dresses from a variety of eras, the exhibit “Ziibaaska’ iganagooday: The Jingle Dress at 100” will be on display through Oct. 31, 2020.

Brenda J. Child (Red Lake Ojibwe) is Northrop professor of American studies and American Indian studies at the University of Minnesota.  She is the author of the critically acclaimed children’s picture book, Bowwow Powwow illustrated by Ojibwe artist, Jonathan Thunder which features a jingle dress dancer. She has been featured in Indian Country Today, Native America Calling, Minnesota Public Radio, and has lectured at the National Museum of the American Indian. We asked her a few more questions about the history and significance of the jingle dress dance.

Brenda J. Child-photo-by-lisa-miller1

Q & A with Brenda J. Child

How do modern jingle dresses differ from dresses a hundred years ago? How were and are they made?

We organized an exhibit at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum and Trading Post in Minnesota to show the evolution of the jingle dress over the past century. Dresses from the 1920s and 1930s resembled flapper dress styles of the day, and the jingles are made from a variety of materials– chewing tobacco lids, baking powder cans, and Prince Albert tobacco cans. Today’s dresses tend to be more elaborate than those of the early 20th century, but they are all very beautiful.

Can you talk a bit about the extensive photographic record of jingle dresses in the Great Lakes?

I first realized that the Jingle Dress Dance Tradition emerged during the flu epidemic when I was unable to find a photograph in the US or Canada of the Jingle Dress prior to circa 1920. For a historian, that told me something very big had recently happened. I eventually put the jingle dress stories we tell in our communities together with my understanding of the terrible impact of the flu epidemic on Native communities of the US and Canada.

How did Ojibwe women use the therapeutic power of the jingle dress?

They used it to heal their communities. This particular epidemic killed people in the prime of their lives, young adults. It killed more people than World War I.

The jingle dress tradition emerged around the same time as the Dance Order from Washington arrived in 1921. What was that order and did it affect the dance?

The Jingle Dress at 100 exhibit tries to answer two questions. First, why is it the the hundredth anniversary of the tradition? This is where I try to explain the history of the global epidemic. Second, I also consider how the jingle dress has been in the past, and remains today, a radical tradition. It emerged in the context of a global epidemic of influenza one hundred years ago, but the tradition is still with us today because it has been embraced not just by Ojibwe people, but Dakotas, and women from many tribes. It emerged in an era when ritualistic dance was banned in the US. Many of the protesters at Standing Rock were jingle dress dancers, and so women have been politically empowered by the tradition as well. It remains a vibrant and modern tradition, even though it is a century old.

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April 27, 2018

Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian

Filed under: Event, Native American — Alison Aten @ 11:07 am
Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian
This year’s Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival includes a remarkable new film that reflects Minnesota’s vital Dakota past and present. Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian “follows Kate Beane, a young Dakota woman, as she examines the extraordinary life of her celebrated relative, Ohiyesa, also known as Charles Alexander Eastman (1858-1939). Biography and journey come together as Kate traces his path—from traditional Dakota boyhood, through education at Dartmouth College, and in later roles as physician, author, lecturer and Native American advocate.”


As the filmmaker notes, “Charles Alexander Eastman was a renowned physician, author, lecturer and Native American rights advocate. His life has been documented in various articles throughout history, but Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian makes for a truly unique effort—a project helmed by Eastman’s descendants. Kate Beane and her family bring Eastman’s story to screen, charting from his childhood growing to his education to his illustrious career.

“Beside his beloved wife, Elaine Goodman Eastman, Charles (Ohiyesa) produced a lasting body of work that continues to inform Native American culture and the global representation of it. A family effort, filmmaker Syd Beane (whose great grandfather, John Eastman, was brother to Charles) and Kate showcase not only their ancestor’s career but the lasting influence his life had on future generations, making for a film that weaves together past and present to tell the story of Ohiyesa.”

We are honored to have Dr. Kate Beane as a colleague here at the Minnesota Historical Society. She was a Gale Fellow and is now Program and Outreach Manager working with the MNHS Native American Initiatives team. A member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe in South Dakota, she holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Minnesota. Her research and writing is included in Mni Sota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota by Gwen Westerman and Bruce White. Her section in the book on Bde Maka Ska, formerly known as Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, details a Dakota agricultural community living there in the 1830s led by another one of her ancestors, Mahpiya Wicasta (Cloud Man).

Here are a few  links to learn more about Ohiyesa and Dakota history and culture:

Historic Fort Snelling: The Dakota People
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March 8, 2018

Q & A with Adam Regn Arvidson, author of Wild and Rare: Tracking Endangered Species in the Upper Midwest

Filed under: Authors, Interview, MHS press, Nature/Enviroment — Alison Aten @ 11:30 am

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Join us next Wednesday, March 14, at 7:00 pm at Magers & Quinn Bookstore to celebrate the publication of Wild and Rare: Tracking Endangered Species in the Upper Midwest by Adam Regn Arvidson. Here he tells us what inspired him to write the book and the adventures he went on and the interesting people he met while researching it.

What is your connection to Minnesota and its landscapes?

I’m originally from the Chicago area, but I’ve lived here now for twenty years. What I loved right away when I moved here—and what I still love about Minnesota—is the incredible variety of landscapes. We are the only state in the US that has three major biomes (prairie, deciduous forest, and mixed conifer forest) without significant elevation change. Those three biomes are as different from each other as jungles, deserts, and coral reefs are. And they all exist right here, within a couple hours’ drive of the Twin Cities.

As someone who grew up ranging far afield from suburban Chicago for outdoor adventures, that landscape diversity is exciting. As a landscape architect who has worked on and written about projects all over the country, I find the Minnesota landscape to be an ever-stimulating source of ideas and inspiration. Edward Abbey writes about how everyone has their ideal home landscape, even if it wasn’t the one they were born into. I feel that way about Minnesota and the upper Midwest. I feel equally at home in the grasslands, the oak woods, and the northern forests. I also love being able to move freely—and quickly—between them.

Wild and Rare is both very focused on our region and also wide-ranging in terms of the species you cover. What made you want to tackle your subject this way?

I am a great lover of lists. I am most definitely a National Parks and State Parks Passport holder. The origin of the book goes way back to around nine years ago, when I visited the International Wolf Center and heard wolves howl for the first time. That moment—which appears in the introduction to the book—was followed by a trip to an Ely food-and-drink establishment, where I wrote the first draft of the description of the howling. But more importantly, I got curious about what other plants and animals might be on the endangered species list. With smartphone in one hand and Minnesota brew in the other, I learned of the (then) twelve listed species. I saw one I recognized and had a deep affinity for—the dwarf trout lily—and many I didn’t. I realized right away that, put together, that list described every landscape in Minnesota, almost every type of living thing, and covered the entire geography of the state.

My goal has always been to describe the beauty and complexity of this state and its neighbors. The species are a gateway to that. The endangered species list, seen item by item, shows off the whole. And along the way I learned more about my adopted home place than I ever thought possible.

You have been out in the field a lot with scientists in researching this book. What are some of your favorite stories from those trips?

Perhaps the most unexpected trip was when I joined Joel Olfelt and his Leedy’s roseroot research team. I met them in a farm field in southeastern Minnesota, and Joel unpacked an aluminum extension ladder. A ladder to catalog plants? We descended steeply (carrying the ladder) into a river gorge with sheer cliffs on both sides and propped the ladder against the rock. Climbing the ladder was a surreal and memorable experience. It was hard to imagine this was a Minnesota landscape. The cliff was dripping with moisture and the river rushed below me. And there on the cliffside were these little plants, each with a metal tag. Joel has spent around two decades following the life stories of these plants—and I was wondering how anyone ever found them in the first place.

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Another memorable story is when I tracked lynx with Dan Ryan of the US Forest Service. I really didn’t know what I was in for, and I spent a lot of time foundering in the deep snow. I sometimes fancy myself a rugged outdoorsman, but Dan is the real deal. He let me follow tracks, but I had to keep asking him to verify what I was seeing. He cruised through the thickets, while I repeatedly fell in the snow and got tangled in the brush. I can’t imagine doing this work in twenty-below weather or even deeper snow—both of which Dan regularly experiences. He, like pretty much every scientist I worked with on this book, was patient and generous. He may have been chuckling at this city kid under his breath, but he didn’t show it.

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How do you turn all that research into chapters that both educate and entertain?

One of my former teachers called me a “binge writer.” I can’t start writing a chapter until all my research is done. By the time I sit down to write, I have already been in the field multiple times, scoured the online Federal Register documents, read books, and done phone interviews. Then I sit down and write a chapter, usually in about two days of solid, nose-to-the-grindstone hunting-and-pecking, most often in coffee shops (I suppose I should have credited my regular haunts in the book’s acknowledgments).

Once the draft is done, I print it out, cut it apart, and start rearranging the sections to make them flow better. I’ve most often done this while holed up for a weekend in a Minnesota State Park camper cabin, papers strewn across the floor, three chapters a day: morning, afternoon, evening. Once I have an order I like, I go back to my tablet and re-arrange the digital version, polishing transitions as I go. This task often reveals where I have research gaps, so I do another round of calls, searches, and readings.

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The great writer Barry Lopez, in a writing class I was once lucky enough to take, talked about the “genius of the first draft.” He is extremely careful about the editing he does, and will often work on an essay for months or years without changing much. In my case, the re-arrangement significantly changes how the chapter flows, but the base text doesn’t change much from that first binge-writing session.

Lopez also talked about the positions of the writer and the reader relative to the story. He feels many writers put themselves up front, potentially in the way of the reader. He prefers to begin beside the reader, and then gradually move the writer into the background behind the reader. This way, the reader has a full view of the story, with the writer sort of whispering in the reader’s ear. I can’t guarantee my book does this, but it’s what I strive for.

What are the main threats facing endangered species in the Midwest?

Of course it varies by species. But if I had to boil it down, I think there is a very simple big three: water quality, habitat loss, and climate change. Poor water quality and increased storm runoff has significantly hurt freshwater mussels, and is likely affecting the dwarf trout lily and the Topeka shiner. Habitat loss is a major one. Without prairie—of which we have lost more than 99 percent in this country—there will be no prairie fringed orchids, no bush clover, likely no Topekas, and definitely no prairie butterflies. Loss of forest habitat affects the wolf and lynx. Beachfront development gets the plover.

Climate change is a little more esoteric. It’s definitely happening, and in some cases the effects are becoming well known. But exactly how it will affect different landscapes is still an open question. And it could be argued that species like the lynx will simply migrate north and be perfectly happy in Canada. But even if plants could gradually migrate north, they likely can’t do it quickly enough and there might not be suitable soils and moisture in their new temperature range.

One message in all this is hopeful. The Clean Water Act of 1972 fundamentally changed the way we treat urban and rural waterways. There is still work to do (especially with agricultural runoff and road salt), but rivers and lakes, overall, are cleaner than they were before that act. That’s why Mike Davis is reintroducing mussels to the Mississippi.

How has the writing of this book, over the course of nine years, changed you?

For starters it made me into a birder. I didn’t know the difference between a red-tailed hawk and a Cooper’s hawk. But then I went to Texas and started trying to identify shorebirds and it opened a whole new world for me. And my kids got all wrapped up in it, too (sorry, boys). We all have eBird accounts and carry binoculars when we hike. I also started cross-country skiing, after trying it in the amazing snow when I was up north tracking lynx with Dan Ryan. Now it’s one of my favorite things.

I suppose the main change has been that I enjoy this state even more. I itch to get outside, no matter the weather. I look at maps and pick out the parks I want to visit (a list-maker’s hobby).

I also find myself plagued or blessed (depending on my perspective that day) with a constant mix of fear and hope over the fate of our fellow travelers on this globe. Every species I tracked in this book has a rather horrible story of either deliberate or collateral persecution by we humans. Every one also has an uplifting story of resilience and potential—often because of the care and passion of humans. Sometimes both stories exist at the same moment in time.

For instance, I have come to believe (regardless of what the “settled science” says) that pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids, are killing bees and butterflies. Right now. Every day. But at the same time, scientists at the Minnesota Zoo are raising and releasing endangered butterflies into the wild. Will they meet the same fate as their forebears? Will they thrive and repopulate the prairies? I don’t know. And I both worry about that and get excited about that. I love this upper midwestern landscape deeply. I believe it will last forever, and I also fear it won’t.

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January 4, 2018

Winter Sowing Seeds

Filed under: Book Excerpt, Nature/Enviroment — Alison Aten @ 1:54 pm

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At Farmer Seed and Nursery in Faribault, Minnesota, workers were surrounded by seeds for farm and garden customers.

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Mary Lahr Schier is the editor of Northern Gardener, the bimonthly magazine of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society, and the author of the new book The Northern Gardener: From Apples to Zinnias, 150 Years of Garden Wisdom. The book features tips and tricks for the northern gardener collected from 150 years of Minnesota State Horticultural Society publications. In the excerpt from the “Seeds” chapter below, Mary explains “Winter Sowing Seeds.”

A catalogue is a stimulus. It’s like an oyster cocktail before dinner, a Scotch highball before the banquet, the singing before the sermon.
Gertrude Ellis Skinner, co-editor, Austin (MN) Herald, 1916

The arrival of seed catalogs, usually just after New Year’s Day, is more exciting than any holiday gifts for many gardeners. Page upon page of enticing photographs and charming descriptions are enough to make gardeners want to settle down with a Scotch highball (or whatever their preferred beverage) and spend the rest of the winter planning the garden and shopping for seeds. But after the rush of the catalog season, the seeds arrive and the challenge of getting those seeds into the ground and growing the garden begins.

Starting seeds is not difficult, but it does require different strategies for northern gardeners compared to our southern friends. Many plants cannot be grown from seeds planted directly in the garden. Our growing season is simply not long enough. So, if you want to grow tomatoes, peppers, or other longer-season crops, you have two choices: buy the plants as transplants, or start seeds indoors.

In many cases, buying transplants makes sense. If you are growing just a few plants, starting seeds indoors may not be worth the time and expense. In that case, wait until mid- to late May and buy plants from a reputable nursery or the farmers’ market or get them from a friend who starts seeds indoors. Then you can plant them directly in the garden or a container and wait for the magic to happen. However, growing plants from seeds means you will have a larger selection—most nurseries offer only a dozen or two varieties of tomatoes, for example, compared to the hundreds of varieties available as seed. Growing your plants from seeds also gives you control over how the seeds are raised. You decide what goes into the planting mix, how much light they get, when they go outside for hardening off. Plus, it’s life affirming to watch those little seeds send out a green tendril that breaks through the soil and becomes a viable plant.

. . .

For northern gardeners, there are three main ways to start seeds: outdoors, indoors, and through the winter-sowing method.

. . .

Winter Sowing Seeds

What if you could start seeds without lights? For many gardeners, winter sowing has become an easier way to grow plants—especially perennials—with little care and no lights. Winter sowing became popular in the past ten years as an easier way to start plants from seed. Essentially, you plant the seeds in a mini-greenhouse and set them outside during the winter. As the weather warms up, the seeds germinate, and eventually you have plants ready for transplanting in the garden. Winter sowing does not work for all plants. And if you plan to start vegetables in winter sowing containers, you need to wait until March or early April.

Here’s how it works. Gather your seeds and clear containers, at least four to six inches deep. Clear gallon milk jugs work especially well, but some gardeners use large lettuce or spinach containers or two-liter soda pop jugs. You’ll also need potting soil. It does not have to be a seed-starting mix, but it should be sterile. Garden soil may harbor weeds or bacteria. To set up the mini-greenhouses, first wash the jugs and dip them briefly in a 10 percent bleach solution to sanitize them. Then, poke holes in the bottom of the jugs for drainage and a few in the top to allow snow or rain to drip in. I use a soldering iron for this job, but a sharp scissors or awl will work, too.

Next, cut around the jug about four to five inches from the bottom, leaving the handle in place, so it functions like a hinge. You want to be able to push it back to add the seeds and soil. Dampen the potting mix as you would for indoor seed starting, and fill the jugs to a depth of about three inches. Plant the seeds as deep as the package says. Before closing up the jugs, place a label inside so you know what kind of seeds you planted. Since the mini-greenhouses will be outdoors in all kinds of winter weather, any writing on the outside of the jug will be worn away by spring. (Trust me on this one—put the label inside!) A good way to make labels is to cut up plastic mini-blinds and write the name of the plant with permanent marker or a laundry pen.

Once the containers have been thoroughly marked, seal them up with duct tape. Some gardeners leave the caps on the jugs, some don’t. Then, set the containers outside in a sunny spot and wait. As spring arrives, you will need to check the containers regularly to make sure they have enough moisture. When plants start to grow, gradually make the air holes on top larger and eventually cut the tops off the containers. Do not rush to put the plants in the ground. When your seedlings are strong and the weather has warmed up, plant them in the garden and enjoy.

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For winter sowing, gardeners plant seeds in mini-greenhouses that are set outside. As the weather warms, the seeds will germinate and be ready for the garden come spring.

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Seeds chosen for winter sowing can handle the snow and cold.

Best Plants for Winter Sowing

Native plants, hardy perennials,
cool-season vegetables, and annuals
that reseed readily do best in winter
sowing containers. Winter sowing
works especially well for perennials
that need stratification—going
through a freeze/thaw cycle to crack
the seed coat.

Here are a few plants to consider
for winter sowing:

Perennials. Anise hyssop, asters,
black-eyed Susan, blanketflower
(Gaillardia), blazing star (Liatris),
catmint (Nepeta), coneflower, coreopsis,
hollyhock, lupine, milkweed,
penstemon, perennial sunflower
(Helianthus).

Hardy annuals. Ageratum, calendula,
cosmos, marigold, morning
glory, petunia hybrids, poppy, salvia,
snapdragon, sweet alyssum, annual
sunflower, zinnia.

Vegetables and herbs. Beets,
broccoli, cilantro, dill, kale, lettuce,
parsley, radish, spinach.

For a mid-April start, try tomatoes.

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November 17, 2017

Swedish Toffee Shortbread Slices (Skurna Knäckkakor)

Filed under: Authors, Food, Scandinavian Studies — Alison Aten @ 1:57 pm

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Patrice Johnson is a Nordic food geek and meatball historian who loves to give old Scandinavian recipes a modern spin. Her new book is  Jul: Swedish American Holiday Traditions.

In exploring these holiday customs, Patrice begins with her own family’s Christmas Eve gathering, which involves a combination of culinary traditions: allspice-scented meatballs, Norwegian lefse served Swedish style (warm with butter), and the American interloper, macaroni and cheese. Just as she tracks down the meanings behind why her family celebrates as it does, she reaches into the lives and histories of other Swedish Americans with their own stories, their own versions of traditional recipes, their own joys of the season. The result is a fascinating exploration of the Swedish holiday calendar and its American translation.

Here’s her recipe for Skurna Knäckkakor or Swedish Toffee Shortbread Slices:

When I tested this recipe, I ate half of the batch before it was completely cooled. It was important to rid the house of the remaining cookies immediately so that I didn’t finish them all. These are the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. They have a dense texture with a hint of toffee. You have been warned.

02-11-toffee-shortbread1

¼ cup raw, unpeeled almonds

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon light or dark corn syrup

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ cups pastry flour

¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Process nuts in food processor or use nut grater to create a medium- to fine-textured meal. Blend all ingredients together, first using electric mixer at low speed for 1 to 2 minutes and then finishing by hand to form a dough. Divide into 2 to 3 equal parts. Using hands, roll each into a log 10 to 12 inches long, place on prepared baking sheets, and flatten into a rectangle. Bake for 12 minutes. While still warm, use a dough scraper to cut each rectangle diagonally into thin slices.

MAKES 50 COOKIES

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October 20, 2017

Joshua Preston, winner of the Solon J. Buck Award for 2016

Filed under: Awards — Alison Aten @ 3:42 pm

Joshua Preston, Solon J. Buck Award winner in 2016

Minnesota History, our quarterly journal, was established 102 years ago by Solon J. Buck, director of the Minnesota Historical Society, who also served as the journal’s first editor. Buck went on to become archivist of the United States while the magazine went on to become the compelling, richly illustrated publication we value today, with a circulation of more than 25,000 issues quarterly.

To honor Dr. Buck, in 1954 the Society established the Solon J. Buck Award for the best article published in Minnesota History during the preceding calendar year. In 1954 the prize was $50. Today it is $600.

A committee of judges selects the winner for the Buck award. This year’s judges were Susan Roth, long-time National Register historian in the Heritage Preservation office (now retired), and Mathew Cassady, program development specialist, Historic Sites and Museums. The magazine’s editor, Laura Weber (a two-time Buck Award winner), completed this year’s panel, serving as a sounding board but not casting a vote.

We are pleased to announce that the winner of the Solon J. Buck Award for 2016 is Joshua Preston, whose article, “Senator Allan Spear and the Minnesota Human Rights Act,” appeared in the Fall 2016 issue. Preston tells the story of Senator Spear’s two-decades-long fight to amend the Minnesota Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, a goal achieved in 1993. Spear died before he could include this story in his unfinished 2010 biography. The judges cited the achievement of the author marshalling a variety of new sources to bring this important story of marginalized and misrepresented voices to the fore. They noted the contemporary relevance of this social justice struggle from a quarter-century ago and were impressed with how Preston told the story of a “bold man and a bold movement” without over-heroizing his subject. Preston, a graduate of the University of Minnesota at Morris, is currently a JD/MA candidate at the University of Minnesota Law School and a 2017 MNHS Legacy Research Fellow.

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April 13, 2017

Q&A with Klas Bergman, author of Scandinavians in the State House

Filed under: Authors, History, Immigration — Alison Aten @ 1:33 pm

Klas Bergman Scandinavians in the State House

Join us on Wednesday, April 19, at the American Swedish Institute to celebrate the publication of Scandinavians in the State House: How Nordic Immigrants Shaped Minnesota Politics by Klas Bergman. Klas will be joined in conversation by Tom Berg, attorney and former state legislator.

Event details here. $5 per person, reservations requested. Klas will also share his book in Duluth and Marine on St. Croix.

Why did you write this book?

Growing up in Stockholm, Sweden I read–no, devoured–the epic tales by Vilhelm Moberg about the Swedish immigrants to Minnesota. Later, I became an immigrant myself and I continue to be fascinated by immigration and immigrant stories. In this book, I managed to combine that interest with my other great interest, American politics.

It’s about how hundreds of thousands of Scandinavian immigrants in Minnesota, who started arriving in the 1850s, took part in building a new state, came to dominate the state’s politics ever since the breakthrough in 1892, and created the U.S. state that most resembles Scandinavia, both politically and culturally. This book has really been a wonderful and challenging project, full of great drama and fascinating personalities.

What surprised you the most in your research?

Well, a lot of what I learned was new to me, and it might be new to many readers, for this aspect of the Scandinavian immigrant story is not widely known. But what surprised me, in particular,  was the sheer number of Scandinavian politicians, at all levels in Minnesota’s society, and how they, often very soon after their arrival in the new world, became involved in politics, voting and running for office. They assimilated quickly; they wanted to become Americans. This is, I believe, a crucial part of the history of Scandinavian immigration to Minnesota, for these Scandinavian politicians helped create today’s Minnesota.

What are the key ingredients in that political legacy?

It’s been called a moralistic political culture, shaped by the Scandinavians together with those who came before them to Minnesota from New England, the Yankees.  It’s pragmatism and a feeling of community and equality, with abundant cooperative activities. The idea of helping your neighbor is important, and nothing is more important than education. Former governor Arne Carlson talks about the “common good,” combining prudence and progressivism.

Many Scandinavians also came to Minnesota for political reasons – why?

Yes, there were thousands of them, Swedes and Norwegians but, in particular, Finns. Many of them were reluctant immigrants, blacklisted in their home countries for their political and union activities and unable to find work there. They left for America to find work, to survive.  I call them radicals in exile, where, in Minnesota, they often continued their political activities, published newspapers, gathered in various political groups and parties, led the strikes in the mines on the Iron Range.  When the American communist party was formed in the early 1920s, over 40 percent of its members were Finns.

What were your sources for your research?

In addition to reading extensively in the existing Scandinavian immigration literature and the rich Scandinavian language press in Minnesota, I found some previously unpublished material, which was very exciting.  I also traveled widely around the state and conducted a large number of interviews with politicians, scholars, journalists, and others, including former leading Scandinavian politicians such as Walter Mondale, Wendell Anderson, Arne Carlson, and Roger Moe, as well as members of the present generation of Scandinavian politicians. The interviews were an essential part of my research, and they provide an important, extra dimension to my book.

Minnesota’s population is changing. There are very few new Scandinavian immigrants. Will their political legacy survive when the new immigrants are Somalis, Hmong, and Latinos?

That is the important question I try to answer in the book.  Still, today, one-third of Minnesota’s 5.4 million residents regard themselves as “Scandinavians,” so, generally, the answer is, yes, that legacy will survive because it is so firmly entrenched in Minnesota’s political culture. But one cannot say this with absolute certainty, and only time will tell.

Did the five Nordic immigrant groups play equally important roles in Minnesota politics?

No, not at all.  The Danes played only a modest role in Minnesota’s policy, although there were individual exceptions; the Icelanders were relatively few, but they distinguished themselves through their important newspaper, the Minneota Mascot; and the Finns put a radical stamp on Minnesota politics as strike leaders on the Iron Range and as numerous socialist and communist party members. But it was the Norwegian immigrants, who came from a not-yet-independent Norway, who took the political lead early on among the Nordic immigrants, and Norwegian-born Knute Nelson’s election victory in 1892 resulted in a century during which all but five of the governors were Scandinavians and during which two Norwegian Americans, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, were elected vice presidents of the United States.

Who is this book for?

I think it’s for everyone who is interested in immigration and American history and politics and, in particular, Minnesota and midwestern history and politics.  And at a time when immigration and refugee policy is high on the agenda the world over, the book is perhaps also a reminder of the importance of immigration and how the Scandinavians were received in Minnesota. They were welcomed, and their labor and their professional skills were needed. All this allowed them to create a new future for themselves and their families, which is why they came to Minnesota in the first place.

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