For this week's topic “Tough Woman” I chose my great-grandmother who had a hard life in Sweden that she left, only to come to America where life remained hard! She was a woman who divorced her husband in the time when divorce was not ever discussed. She was an independent, determined individual.
Ingrid Olauson was born in Katslosa parish in Malmohus county, Sweden on 23 June 1873 to Olaus Hansson and Bengta Nilsdotter . I have a copy of a cassette tape that was made by Ingrid’s son Harry where Ingrid described her early years, which is a priceless genealogical treasure. Ingrid reported that she once worked an entire summer and received a sack of flour for her pay. She said that her father worked in a town far from home and they only saw him about 6 times a year. Her father left Sweden for the United States in 1888 and never returned to Sweden or his family. Ida said the last and only time after 1888 that she saw him was in 1911, and she had not seen him for 24 years at that time.
Ingrid left for the United States in March of 1894. She traveled alone and said that the trip was so stormy that she thought they would never see land again. She said that she traveled on a very small ship and it was the last trip that the ship made. She landed in New York,, then traveled by train to Chicago, Illinois where she was met by a cousin. She lived with another cousin in Chicago and worked in a home as a housemaid and cook where she made $2 a week. She was only in Chicago for about 6 months, when the cousin she was living with decided to move back to Sweden. Ingrid then moved to Peoria, Illinois to stay with yet another cousin, and again worked as a housekeeper. Ingrid said that the woman she worked for could not pronounce “Ingrid” and began calling her “Ida”, so she stayed with that name.
Ida met Charles Seeber in 1899 and married him 3 months later in Peoria, Illinois. On the tape, Ida talked about Charles and said, "You couldn't believe a word he said. (which has been evident in my research on him!) Charles was a millwright and woodworker. She said "he was a good worker if he'd leave the booze alone." She also said that he spent all of his money and that she "never got anything."
Ida and Charles had 6 children,all born between 1901-1913. Family members who knew Charles said that he was a good-looking, fun-loving man whom everyone loved. However, apparently Ida had enough of him, because she divorced him in 1926, when their youngest child was 13 years old. Sometime in 1932 Charles became ill with cancer and, Ida let him move back into the home and she cared for him until he died in January of 1933.
Of her father, Ida said that he lived in North Dakota and "had another woman". When he died they "shipped" him to Peoria and she refused to pay for his funeral and burial, stating that she was divorced from her husband and ended up paying for his funeral and burial and she wasn't paying for anyone else's funeral or burial. She stated that she and her father "were on the outs for a long time".
Ida never saw her mother after Ida left Sweden in 1894. Of her 5 siblings, 4 came to the United States in the early 1900’s and they all lived in the Peoria, Illinois area. The other sibling, a sister, died at age 12, a couple of years after Ida had left Sweden. Ida remained close to her brother and sisters over the years.
Ida was about 53 years old when she divorced Charles, with children still living at home. Several of her children lived with her off and on in her home for a number of years following the divorce. Ida did not work outside the home after Charles died, so her children supported her. Around 1948, she sold her house and lived in an apartment for awhile, then moved in with her son, Rich and his wife. Through-out the years, she often stayed with her other children, also.
I was her oldest great-grandchild and spent time with her, although she always seemed very old to me. She was 76 years old when I was born. As I got a little older, I would often “baby-sit” with her when she stayed at my grandparents and they would go out for the evening. She was very hard of hearing, so we would watch the Lawrence Welk show (her favorite) turned up very loud! Then I would help her get to bed.
Ida spent the last few years of her life in a nursing home. She lived long enough to see my first child born, and we have a 5 generation of females picture with her! I
Ida died in 1974 at the age of 101 years old.
She was a woman who worked hard and went through many struggles in her life. A tough woman indeed!