This is a list of living books that tell the stories of the people and events of the Civil Rights Movement. While these are picture books, they are stories that all ages can appreciate. Some of my very favorite children’s books are on this list because they tell such inspiring stories of courage and determination. I hope you enjoy them as much as my children and I have!
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I can’t recommend this book enough! A true account of the life of Fannie Lou Hamer and her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Heartbreaking, moving, hopeful, and inspiring, this is an emotional read. Note: there are some difficult topics mentioned in this book: forced sterilization (p. 12), and the overall injustice and violence that were realities during this time. There is also strong language (p. 21). This is a beautifully written picture book, but you might want to pre-read before sharing it with your children. Highly highly recommend!
The author tells the true story of her experience as a child observer and participant in the Civil Rights Movement. Told from a child’s perspective, so it is excellent for children. Features other prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who she knew and had a relationship with, such as Martin Luther King Jr.. Highly recommend!
This story is amazing and fabulous for children! Tells the true story of a nine year-old girl who bravely went to jail to protest segregation. This book explains segregation and the Civil Rights Movement in a way that is very accessible to children. One of my favorites!
Talks about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the role of the song “We Shall Overcome” not only in the United States, but in civil rights movements throughout the world. The text is very clear and easy for children to understand.
The story of Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves post Civil War, who raised himself from poverty, gained an education, and became an advocate for black Americans. He formed the movement that later led to Black History Month. Great read!
Kirsten and her family found a beautiful new home in the Minnesota territory, but the Dakota tribe of Native Americans had already called the area home for many hundreds of years. They were a hunting and gathering people, and they lived mainly on the wild deer, elk, and buffalo that roamed the area.
When pioneers began to develop the Dakota’s lands, they chased away the wild animals. This caused major problems for the Dakota people who these animals for food. The Dakota did very little farming; they only grew a small amount of corn or squash, so when the settlers chased the wild animals from their lands, the Dakota began to starve.
In 1851, the United States offered the Dakota money and food for their land in Minnesota, and the Dakota were to move to a reservation, which was a small strip of land along the Minnesota River. Because the Dakota were starving, they accepted the offer. However, the United States often did not make their payments to the Dakota on time. There were very few animals on the reservation, and although many of the Dakota began to farm to try to feed themselves, when crops were poor they were still faced with hunger. They really needed the money owed to them by the government, and when it did not come they were angry. This led to the Dakota Conflict of 1862. Some of the Dakota attacked settlements and government agencies. The settlements were vulnerable because many of the men were off fighting for the Union Army in the Civil War. Minnesota’s governor asked President Lincoln to send their troops back so they could defend their state, and after six weeks, the Dakota surrendered. Some of the Dakota fled, others were taken and put on trial. Over 300 Dakota were sentenced to death, but President Lincoln changed most of the death sentences to prison sentences. Thirty-eight Dakota were hung, and the rest were imprisoned in Fort Snelling throughout the winter, where many starved to death or dies of illness.
Despite this tragic time in their history, the Dakota have survived and preserved many of the traditions that they had at the time that Kirsten was a girl. In Kirsten’s day, Dakota women would throw blankets over porcupines and collect the quills that got stuck in the blanket. They would then flatten the quills, dye them, and sew them onto animal hides to decorate clothing, bags, moccasins, and other items. The Dakota women also wove beads together on looms to make beautiful sashes and bags. Some Dakota women still carry on this custom and teach their children how to quill and bead today!
(information from Welcome to Kirsten’s World, 1854: Growing Up in Pioneer America)
Weave a Beaded Sash!
This is a fun project that will help you remember the Dakota people.
pony beads (you will need about 150 for each beaded sash)
centimeter graph paper
durable thread or string
colored pencils, crayons, or markers (in colors that match the pony beads)
needle with a large eye
First, create your pattern on your graph paper. To do this, mark off as many rows on your graph paper as you plan to have on your beaded sash. Color in squares to represent beads on your sash.
Next, prepare the loom. Tape the end of your string securely to the back of your cardboard loom. Wrap your string around the loom, wrapping from back to front until you have six lengthwise strings.
Now, thread a needle with a long crosswise string. Tie the end to the bottom longwise string on your loom.
Start with your first vertical row. Thread the beads in order onto your needle. Slide the beads down onto the string, then slide the needle UNDER the lengthwise threads. Pull the string all the way up and place the beads in between the horizontal strings.
Put the needle back through the row of beads, making sure the cross thread goes OVER the horizontal strings this time. Pull through the beads and pull tight.
Cross out the row on your pattern so you know you have completed this row.
Now repeat the steps until you have finished your pattern.
Once your pattern is complete, tie the ends of your strings together to tie off the sash.
Nimiipuu Food: Fishing, Hunting, and Gathering, and Cooking and Storing Food
Kaya’s people, the Nimiipuu were a fishing, hunting, and gathering people. They did not farm. Because they lived by rivers, almost half of their diet consisted of fish – mainly salmon, but also included lamprey eel, and any other fish that could be found. They caught fish with spears, weighted nets, hooks and lines, and traps. They also hunted and ate elk, moose, deer, rabbit, squirrel, and duck. They sometimes even hunted and ate bear. They would mostly fish in the spring, especially when the salmon were swimming up river to lay eggs. Hunting was done at all times of the year. The Nimiipuu even used snowshoes to hunt in the snow! They used bows and arrows and spears to hunt the land animals. After the Nimiipuu began to keep and ride horses in the mid 1700s, they also traveled to the plains to the east of the their homeland and joined in the buffalo hunt. The men did most of the hunting.
The women gathered food such as roots, berries, and plants such as wild carrots and onions. The camas root, which was the root of a lily plant, was a staple food. The women used shaped sticks to dig up roots. There was a method to this – they had to know just where to dig in order to dig up the roots without piercing them with the stick.
Boys and girls began to help with the work of fishing/hunting or gathering food at around age 3. Usually by age 6, a boy had made his first kill, and a girl had started to dig roots and gather food. There was a special ceremony to honor a child’s first kill or root gathering where the food was served to a respected hunter or gatherer.
Dig for Food!
Because Kaya would have had the task of gathering food and digging for roots with a stick like all Nimiipuu girls and women, we used a digging activity to learn about the foods the Nimiipuu ate. I gathered pictures of the different animals, roots, and berries that the Nimiipuu ate and buried them in a box of sand. As the girls dug up each picture with a stick (just like Kaya would have dug for roots!) I talked about that food, what is was, and the way it was obtained, prepared, and eaten.
Activity: Hunting Games!
A game that young Nimiipuu played was one where one child would roll a small hoop along the ground while another tried to throw a spear or shoot an arrow through the hoop while it was in motion. This was meant to help them practice the skills needed for hunting.
To simulate this game, use a hula hoop or any kind of hoop you have on hand. Have one child roll the hoop while another throws a stick or dowel through the hoop. We happened to have rubber-tipped arrows so that is what we used. You could also try a bow and arrow if you happen to have one!
The women and girls did the cooking and food preparation. The women would skin and prepare fish and other animals for cooking. They would smoke the fish and meat, or boil it. This was done in a tightly woven basket, as the Nimiipuu did not make pottery. The basket would be filled with water, and then hot stones from the fire would be dropped in the water to quickly bring it to a boil. As the stones cooled, they would be removed and replaced with more hot stones.
Roots would often be steamed or boiled, then made into a soup or gruel, or ground and made into cakes. Any excess food, including fish and meat, would be preserved through smoking or drying and stored for the winter months.
Let’s Cook the Nimiipuu Way!
You Will Need:
a small amount of salmon cut into 1 inch cubes (approximately)
a large pot (if you have a water-tight basket that would also be really cool!)
lots of clean rocks
You can simulate the way the Nimiipuu cooked by heating rocks and putting them in a pot of water. The water really does boil! This is how I did it: I gathered some rocks from a nearby river. I cleaned them really well by soaking them in clean water several times and scrubbing them off.
You will want rocks that are as non-porous as possible. I put them on a baking sheet and let them heat in the oven on its highest setting, which is 525 degrees in my oven, for about one hour. You could also heat the rocks in an actual fire if you have a place to make one, which I think would be really fun! I then carefully placed the rocks one by one in a pot of water.
When the water was hot and bubbling in places, we held chunks of salmon on skewers in the water and watched them cook. It only takes about 5-6 minutes. We salted the salmon and ate it. It was tasty! NOTE: You will want quite a few rocks for this – your water should be just barely covering the rocks or the water won’t get hot enough. Also, the water won’t come to a rolling boil, it will be bubbling near the rocks, steaming, and definitely hot enough to cook the salmon, but it won’t boil all over.
Activity: Weave a Food-Gathering Pouch
The Nimiipuu used baskets as containers for many things. Kaya would have carried a basket or woven pouch with her for gathering food. You can weave your own small pouch too!
You will need:
About 1/4 yard of burlap cut into 1 inch strips. You will need about 14 strips to make your pouch
1/4 yard of Fusible interfacing
thick embroidery floss
a tapestry needle
Cut your burlap into strips that are one inch wide and about 10 inches long. I recommend using a rotary cutter for this. Once your strips of burlap are all cut, weave them together by first laying 7 strips side by side vertically, then weaving in the horizontal strips by alternating in an over, under pattern.
Once your strips are woven together, cut a piece of fusible interfacing to fit all but the edges of your weaving. Press it on with a hot iron. I recommend using a press cloth to protect your iron while you do this.
Next, flip your weaving over and trim off the edges. Fold the weaving in half, then whip stitch the open side and bottom with your embroidery floss. Whip stitch around the top as well, to keep the edges from fraying, but be careful to leave the top of your pouch open – don’t accidentally sew it shut! Now your pouch is done! You can decorate it if you would like – the Nimiipuu put lots of beautiful designs on their woven items, so that’s what Kaya would have done!
The colonists in Felicity’s day were proud of their hospitality. They welcomed family and friends in for tea, and strangers as well. The “middling” class and the gentry loved to throw fancy balls and galas, and they included lots of wonderful food. A festive meal would have several courses, sometimes with over 20 dishes in a course!
The Virginia Colony, of which Williamsburg was the capitol, had a great mixture of cultural influences on its food. There was, of course, a lot of British influence on colonial food, and quite a bit of Native American influence too. The Native Americans shared many of their traditional foods with the colonists, including pumpkins, corn, and beans. So we can thank Native Americans for pumpkin pie, corn on the cob, popcorn, and baked beans! The colonists also adapted some of the cooking methods and foods from slaves that came from Africa, and from French cooks, which were considered fashionable at the time among the wealthiest colonial homes.
Colonial food was typically cooked over a fire in a huge fireplace in the kitchen, which was usually an outbuilding in order to remove the heat and smell of cooking from the main house.
The cooking would be done by the women of the family in a poor or lower middle class household, and by servants or slaves in an upper middle class or gentry household. They would use dutch ovens and large kettles and pots suspended from a spit over the fire, and the spit itself would be used to cook meat. Usually a small oven was built into the wall of the fireplace for baking. Cooks would test the temperature by putting their arm in the oven and counting. If they could count to a certain number (usually 20 or 30) and no more the oven was the right temperature! If they could not get to the right number without pulling out their arm, the oven was too hot. If they could count longer it was too cold. Colonists would also fry food over the fire on something called a spider. That is how Johnny Cakes were made!
Let’s sample some of the foods commonly found in Williamsburg that Felicity would have eaten!
Puddings were often served in the colonies as a main dish, a side, or a complete meal in one! Chicken pudding most likely would have been served at dinner, which was the biggest meal of the day and served around 2 pm. The colonists would have breakfast around 8 or 9, which usually would include tea, then dinner in the early afternoon. They had tea again around 5, which included bread, and sometimes sweets such as tarts and spiced nuts. The final meal of the day was supper, which was a light meal in the late evening before bed.
Try making some colonial food to try!
Chicken Pudding (from Felicity’s Cookbook)
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
shortening or butter to grease casserole dish
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups milk
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat
Add the chicken breasts to the skillet. Brown on both sides.
Add water and 1 teaspoon of salt to the skillet. When the water boils, turn down the heat until it simmers.
Cover the skillet and cook chicken 1/2 hour.
Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
Transfer chicken breasts to the casserole dish and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Make the batter for the chicken pudding: combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter.
Beat the eggs with the milk in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the melted butter.
Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Beat the batter until it is smooth, then our over the chicken breasts in the casserole dish.
Bake the chicken pudding for about 40 minutes or until the batter puffs up and is golden brown.
Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!
One of Felicity’s favorite foods was pumpkin pudding. Pumpkins were a popular food in Williamsburg because they were easy to grow and they kept very well throughout the winter. You can make your own pumpkin pudding to share with your family and friends!
Pumpkin Pudding (from Felicity’s Cookbook)
1 pound can of pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup milk
butter or shortening to grease a casserole dish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Beat them with a fork until they are light yellow, then add the pumpkin and mix well.
Add spices, molasses, and milk. Mix well.
Grease a 1.5 quart casserole dish. Pour the mixture into the dish.
Bake the pudding for 1 hour. Serve warm.
Now it’s time for dessert!
Almond Tarts (from Felicity’s Cookbook)
3/4 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cream
extra flour for rolling dough
1/2 cup butter (I actually found this to be too much, you might try 1/4 or 1/3 cup instead)
1 cup ground almonds
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
To make the pastry dough, measure the flour and the butter into a medium mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or fork to blend them until the mixture is crumbly.
Crack the egg into the bowl. Add the cream and stir to form a smooth dough.
Chill the pastry dough for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
Zest the lemon. Put 1 tablespoon of lemon zest into a large mixing bowl.
Add the melted butter, ground almonds, orange juice, eggs, and sugar. Mix well. Set aside.
Divide the pastry dough into 12 pieces and shape each into a ball.
On a floured cutting board, roll out each ball into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
Fit each circle into the cup of a muffin pan. Pat the sides to make them fit like tiny pie crusts.
Scoop filling evenly into each tart crust.
Bake the tarts for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Yum! Tarts were a popular dessert in the colonies and for good reason!
Colonists used things like dried fruit, candied flowers, fresh herbs, spices, and other plants to decorate their food and tables. You can decorate your tarts with candied flowers.
You will need:
edible flowers (you can find these at a health food store)
2 egg whites
fine white sugar
a new paint brush (wash it with soap and water)
Make sure your flowers are clean and dry. Whisk the egg whites until they are foamy. Use the paint brush to brush each petal of your flowers with a thin coat of egg whites. Sprinkle your flowers lightly with sugar. Allow them to dry overnight.
Tea was an important drink in Williamsburg, and in all the other colonies too. By the time Felicity was a girl, just about everyone was drinking tea, two or more times a day! But there began to be a problem with drinking tea. England had decided to tax all the tea that the colonies imported. It also had decided to dictate who the colonists could buy tea from. And the colonists were not happy about it. England had just spent years and years fighting wars with the Spanish, the French, and the Native Americans, and its treasury was depleted. England wanted to build its treasury up once again. King George III and parliament had a simple solution to this: tax the colonies. So first they taxed sugar (the Sugar Act), and then they taxed official papers and published items (the Stamp Act). The colonists didn’t like this, and they protested it, but when England started taxing tea, that was the last straw! The colonists had no say in parliament, so they could not give any input on these taxes, and they felt that was incredibly unfair. They called it “taxation without representation” and declared that it was against their rights.
The colonists began to boycott tea. Tea was an important part of their way of life, so they replaced it with coffee, chocolate, or “Liberty Tea” which they made from whatever plants and herbs they could find. They used raspberry leaves, chamomile, and other herbs.
Drink to Freedom with Liberty Tea!
You will need:
an herbal tea such an chamomile or raspberry leaf (use either a loose leaf kind or cut open tea bags for a more authentic experience)
a tea service and tea strainer
Place the tea in the teapot with the hot water. Let it steep for a few minutes, then serve tea to your guests as Felicity did! (Find details below)
In Felicity’s day, tea parties were important occasions, and so were the manners that went with them! The hostess of a tea party was the one who poured the tea and she was responsible for keeping the tea cups full. The colonists used loose leaves, not tea bags, so the tea would be strained as it was poured. The hostess would refill all of her guest’s cups again and again until they signaled that they were finished by turning their tea cup upside down and and laying their spoon across the top. If a guest was unaware of this custom, they might end up drinking a lot of tea!
A colonial tea service would include a teapot, cups, saucers, a small pitcher for milk, a sugar bowl, and a dish for discarding the tea leaves. You will notice in the pictures that these tea cups had no handles. The tea cups that Felicity drank from would not have had handles because the tea pots and cups that were used at the time were imported from China and the Chinese did not put handles on their cups. Sugar was added with little tongs from a cake of sugar. In colonial times, white sugar was made through a process that used water and resulted in a hard cone or “loaf” of sugar. The sugar was hard and was broken off in “lumps,” which is where we get the phrase, “one lump, or two?”
Make a Sugar Loaf
You can easily make a sugar loaf to go with your tea party. All you need is white sugar, water, cooking spray, and a small bowl. I used a silicone muffin cup so that I could remove my sugar cone easily, but a small glass or plastic bowl would work fine, I think. Just be sure to spray it with a little cooking spray before adding the sugar. In a small mixing bowl, mix about 1/4 cup of sugar with a teaspoon of water. Add water as needed until your sugar mixture is like damp beach sand and sticks together when pressed in your hand. You do not want your sugar to be too wet. Once the sugar is moistened. press it into your greased bowl until it is packed down. Then, leave it to dry completely. It should be dry in a couple of days, and you can turn it out of your bowl to use for your tea party.
As the colonists were boycotting tea, they were also organizing more aggressive protests. Samuel Adams had formed a secret society called the Sons of Liberty. It was the Sons of Liberty that organized the famous Boston Tea Party to protest England’s tax on tea.
Make a Teacup for Felicity!
These tea cups do have handles, so they are not accurate in that way, but they are still cute and fun to make!
Life on a rancho in New Mexico was full of work! Josefina would have started her chores in the early morning and continued working until the evening time, doing things like washing clothes, fetching water, cooking, weaving, gardening, and sewing.
Josefina’s family raised sheep, and she helped take care of them. She also helped in the process of turning her sheep’s wool into beautiful blankets and rugs that brightened and warmed her home. To do this, the sheep had to be shorn, then the wool had to be cleaned, carded, dyed, spun into yarn, and then woven on a loom.
Spin Some Yarn from Wool!
You might be able to find raw wool to work with at your local farmer’s market. If not, you can get some here.
Clean your wool by dipping it in hot water repeatedly, but DO NOT AGITATE! You will felt the wool if you do! Or, you can skip that step by getting wool roving to work with.
After raw wool has been cleaned, it has to be carded, or untangled, before it can be spun into yarn. Here are some good instructions on how to card wool:
Once the wool has been carded, you can try spinning it into yarn. You can use a spinning wheel if you have access to one, or a drop-spinner, which is inexpensive to buy and easy to use. The link below is a good tutorial on how how to use a spinning wheel for beginners.
Once you have made some yarn, try weaving it on a loom!
Try Weaving on a Loom!
This little loom is really easy to use and is very similar to the kind of loom that Josefina would have used, although her loom would have been HUGE (like the size of a wall)! Josefina would have woven blankets, rugs, and certain items of clothing such as panchos on a loom similar to this, but bigger of course. All you have to do is set up the lengthwise fibers with the yarn, then use on over-under pattern to weave in the cross-fibers. That’s it!
Try on a Rebozo!
In addition to creating woven blankets and rugs, Josefina would have also woven clothing items like a rebozo and sarape. A rebozo is a kind of shawl that Mexican women would wear around their heads, shoulders, or waists. It was a really useful item of clothing and was used for warmth, but also to carry things such as vegetables and fruit, and even babies! Mexican women would wrap the rebozo around their baby and then around their back to make a kind of sling. The rebozo is actually still used by many Mexican women today. Try one on and see what you think! You can find one here.
Trading in Santa Fe
In the last lesson, we learned about how El Camino Real gave New Mexicans access to goods and ideas from Mexico, Spain, and many other places around the world including China, Africa, England, France, and other European countries. But when the Spanish were ruling New Mexico, they did not let Americans or any other foreigners trade there. As soon as Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, however, Americans immediately began to come to Santa Fe to trade. Thus the Santa Fe Trail was blazed from far-away Missouri all the way to New Mexico, and cultures from all over the world came together and mingled in Santa Fe. Trade took place in the Santa Fe plaza. Josefina was just six years-old at that time, so she grew up seeing items from all over the world! New Mexican girls admired the pretty things that came from Mexico City on El Camino Real and from America via the Santa Fe Trail, but they were often expensive and difficult for a rancho family to attain, so resourceful New Mexicans made their own versions of things like jewelry. Josefina’s grandfather brought her glass beads from Mexico City, and she made herself a pretty necklace from them.
Make a Necklace for Josefina (and a Matching One for You!)
All you need is:
wooden or glass beads
30″ piece of leather cord (if the holes on your beads are big enough – works best with wooden beads), or hemp cord if you have glass beads with small holes
seed beads for Josefina’s necklace
18″ piece of stretchy cord for Josefina’s necklace
For your necklace, create a pattern with your beads and string them in your leather or hemp cord. When you are finished stringing the beads, tie two knots with both ends of your cord so that your necklace will be adjustable. First take one end and use that end to tie a knot around the cord. Then take the other end and do the same. Now you can slide your knots up and down your cord to make your necklace longer or shorter and get the perfect fit!
For Josefina’s necklace, cut an 18″ piece of the stretchy cord. String the cord with the seed beads in the pattern you like, and then string both ends of the cord through a crimping bead so they are overlapping through the crimping bead. Pull the cord through until the necklace is the length that you want and then flatten the crimping bead into the cord with a pair of pliers. You might even use two crimping beads next to each other for good measure, as they can sometimes come loose or fall off. That’s it! You’ve got a necklace for Josefina!
Through the Santa Fe trail, more and more American influence was creeping in to New Mexico. Ultimately, the United States decided it wanted to take over New Mexico and the rest of the Mexican land in North America, so they started a war. It was called the Mexican American War and lasted from 1845 to 1848. The Mexican army was under-equipped, underpaid, and under-fed, so the United States army had the upper hand. In the end, the U.S. took half a million square miles of Mexican land, and so Josefina’s home, New Mexico, became part of the United States of America. Josefina was now an American!
Like most parts of her culture, Josefina’s food combined traditions from the Spanish, Mexicans, and Native Americans. Families like Josefina’s who lived on ranchos (or farms) in northern New Mexico grew most of their own food. Their staple foods were corn, beans, and squash (including pumpkins), which they learned about from the Pueblo Native Americans. They also used many kinds of chiles, eggs, and cheese made from goat’s milk. They ate meat from the goats and sheep that they raised and hunted wild animals such as deer, buffalo, and rabbits.
Grind Corn Like Josefina
New Mexicans ate corn in many different forms. They ate it fresh, dried, roasted, and treated with lime and ground up for use in making tamales and tortillas. Josefina would have used a metate and mano to grind corn. This is a fun thing to try – you really get an appreciation for how hard people in New Mexico worked in order to feed their families! A metate can be hard to find, but if you can get your hands on one, place a handful of whole corn on the metate and use the mano to scrape the corn down toward the bottom. Pull the corn back to the top, then scrape it down again. Repeat 4-5 times. Then you have cornmeal!
Tortillas made from corn or wheat were an everyday food for New Mexicans. Josefina would have eaten tortillas at breakfast every day. They would have been cooked on a hot grille on the fire in the corner oven in the kitchen or the outdoor oven in the courtyard. Try making homemade tortillas like Josefina ate – they are delicious!
Flour Tortillas (from Josefina’s Cookbook)
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c. lard (you can use shortening if you can’t find lard)
1/2 c. hot water
extra flour for handling the dough
Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
Add lard and blend it in with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture becomes crumbly like sand.
Add the hot water and stir until you have a soft, sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball.
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead the dough for about 1 minute.
Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Flatten the dough and cut it into 12 equal pieced. Form the pieces into balls and cover with a damp towel for 30 minutes.
Flour a work surface, your hands, and a rolling pin.
Flatten a dough ball with the heel of your hand, then roll it out with the rolling pin into a circle that is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
Heat a griddle for 30 seconds on medium-high heat. Place the tortilla on the griddle, then flip after about 30 seconds.
The tortilla is done when it has puffed up slightly and has light brown spots on both sides.
Remove from the griddle and keep tortillas warm until served by wrapping them in a dry towel.
There were also some special foods that New Mexicans got from Mexico City through traders that traveled a trade route called the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Some of these special foods were sugar, chocolate, and spices such as cinnamon and anise seed. It took months for traders to travel the Camino Real, and so these foods were not always readily available. It was exciting for Josefina’s family when traders arrived from Mexico City!
Grind Spices Like Josefina!
When Josefina’s family got spices from Mexico City they weren’t ground up like the spices we can buy in a bottle at the grocery store today. Josefina would have ground her family’s spices herself using a mortar and pestle. The mortar and pestle were made of wood or stone. The mortar was the bowl and the pestle was used to crush the spices.
You can do this just like Josefina did!
You will need:
a mortar and pestle
whole allspice berries
A mortar and pestle is easy to find if you don’t have one already. You might might even be able to find it at your local grocery store. Your local grocery store should also carry whole allspice berries. Place a few of the allspice berries in the mortar and use the pestle to smash them up. That’s all there is to it!
Josefina’s Hot Chocolate
Josefina’s family could get chocolate from Mexico City in the form of partially sweetened, hardened wafers. Chocolate in Mexico dates back to the ancient Mayas and Aztecs, who consumed it as a bitter drink. When the Spanish came to South America and were introduced to chocolate in the 1500s, they brought it back to Europe and added sugar to sweeten it, and this is how Josefina’s family used it. It came in the form of cakes of sweetened chocolate that the New Mexicans would grind up and mix with hot water or milk to make hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate was a special treat for Josefina. Here’s a simple recipe for hot chocolate like Josefina’s.
one cake of sweetened chocolate, such as Abuelita
2 cups of hot water
Grind the cake of chocolate with a grater
Beat the ground chocolate into the hot water with a whisk. Beat the chocolate quickly and for several minutes until your hot chocolate is nice and frothy. For an even more authentic experience, you can use a molinillo, which was a special wooden stirrer that New Mexicans used to make their hot chocolate frothy.
That’s it! Pour your chocolate into a cup and enjoy!
For an extra special treat, you can serve bizcochitos with your hot chocolate!
Bizcochitos are New Mexican sugar cookies that were a treat for special occasions. They were flavored with anise seed so they have a light licorice sort of taste. Here is how to make these tasty cookies:
Bizcochitos (from Josefina’s Cookbook)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup lard or shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons anise
3 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cold water, or as needed
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
Put the lard or shortening in a large mixing bowl. Use the wooden spoon to press the lard or shortening against the side of the bowl until it is soft and smooth.
Mix 1/2 cup sugar into the lard or shortening a little bit at a time. Stir until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then crack the egg into the mixture. Add the anise seed and mix well. Set aside.
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then add to the lard and sugar mixture. Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut the flour in until the mixture is crumbly.
Add the vanilla. Then add water a little at a time until a ball of dough forms as you stir. Use as little water as possible, just enough so the dough will come together. You don’t want your dough to get sticky.
Divide the dough into 3 balls. Put 2 balls in the refrigerator while you roll out the other ball.
Cover your table with a piece of parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Rub flour on a rolling pin and roll out one ball of dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Sprinkle the cookie with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them! They burn easily!
Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on the cookies and more them to a paper towel to cool. Continue with the rest of the dough until all the cookies are made.
There are some other foods that Josefina would have eaten that you might be able to find at your grocery store. Goat milk and goat cheese would have been everyday foods. Tamales and empanadas, both the sweet and savory kinds, would have been foods saved for special occasions, like Christmas. See if you can find some of these foods and give them a try!
Food was a big part of pioneer life. Kirsten’s family raised or grew almost everything they ate, so the spent a lot of time planting and harvesting crops from their fields and garden, and caring for the chickens, cows, and pigs that gave the family their eggs, milk, butter, cheese, ham, and bacon. They also spent a lot of time preserving food, and of course, cooking it! Let’s try some pioneer recipes to learn about what Kirsten and her family would have eaten in the 1850s.
*Note: Most of the information in this post comes from Kirsten’s Cookbook which is a great resource and full of tasty recipes!
Swedish Rice Porridge: A Special Breakfast Treat (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)
The Swedish name for this rice porridge is Skansk grot (pronounced skone-sk groot) and it was a dish Swedish settlers brought with them from the homeland. It was usually made for dessert, but Kirsten’s mama sometimes kept the leftovers warm overnight in the cookstove so it could be eaten for breakfast. Some other foods that were usually eaten at breakfast were eggs and pork sausage. A pioneer breakfast had to be hearty to give them fuel for a long workday ahead!
1 large apple
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup white rice
1 cup water
3 inch cinnamon stick
4 cups milk
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla
cream or honey (optional)
Peel and core the apple and cut into small pieces. Set aside.
Grease the bottom of the saucepan with butter.
Put the rice, water, and cinnamon stick into the saucepan. Place the pan on the stove on medium heat.
Bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer. Cover the pan and simmer 10-15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
Pour the milk into the saucepan. Turn up the heat and stir until the milk begins to simmer.
When the milk begins to simmer, turn the heat down to low. Add the brown sugar, chopped apple, and raisins. Stir gently.
Cover the pan and simmer the porridge for about 45 minutes. Stir it once or twice as it cooks.
Turn off the heat and take the pan from the stove. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the vanilla.
Serve warm with cream or honey.
Something that might surprise you about a Swedish pioneer breakfast is that they sometimes finished with a cookie! Kirsten would also put one in her pocket to eat for a snack later since dinner was a long time and a lot of work away!
Ginger Cookies (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)
6 cups flour (plus more for rolling out dough)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup soft shortening
1 1/2 cup dark molasses
2/3 cup cold water
Mix flour, baking soda, salt, allspice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon in a large bowl.
In another large bowl, place the packed brown sugar.
Add shortening to the brown sugar and cream together by pressing the brown sugar and shortening against the side of the bowl and then stirring quickly until the mixture is creamy.
Add the molasses and water to the sugar mixture. Stir to mix well.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix until all the dry ingredients are mixed in.
Cover the bowl with a large plate and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat the over to 350 degrees and cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out dough to 1/2″ thick.
Cut out circles with a cookie cutter and place them on the cookie sheets. Place them at least 2 inches apart as they will get bigger as they bake.
Bake the cookies 12-15 minutes.
Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet to cool.
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies
In the early afternoon, Kirsten’s family would have dinner, which was the largest meal of the day. As soon as breakfast was finished and cleaned up, Mama and Kirsten would begin to prepare dinner. Kirsten would dig up some potatoes, pull an onion, and cut a cabbage from the garden to use for the midday meal.
Make Dinner for Kirsten!
Kirsten, like most pioneer children of her day, was supposed to be seen, not heard at the dinner table. But she could help her father say grace before each meal. One prayer she might have said was “Valsigna Gud den mat vi fa (pronounced Vel-SING-nuh Goodt den maht vee foh) which means “May God bless the food we eat.”
Swedish Potatoes (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)
Potatoes were an important staple of Swedish food. Many Swedish families ate potatoes at every meal. You’ll see why when you try these Swedish potatoes! Some Swedish immigrants survived on potatoes and little else their first winter in America.
1 medium onion
6 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 3/4 cups heavy cream of half-and-half
Peel the onion and chop it into small pieces.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes.
Melt the shortening in the large skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and onion. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir a few times.
Stir while you add the cream a little at a time. When the liquid bubbles, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Test the potatoes with a fork for doneness. If the fork goes into the potatoes easily, they are done.
Cabbage and Apple Salad (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)
Kirsten’s family would have grown cabbage in their garden and had apple trees on their farm. Pioneer families in Kirsten’s time preserved apples for use in the winter by cutting apples in thin slices and spreading them on flat rocks to dry or hanging them on the side of the house so they could dry in the sun.
1/2 head cabbage
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
Cut, and coarsely shred the cabbage. Put the cabbage in a large bowl.
Peel the apples, remove the cores, and shred them into the large bowl.
Add the raisins to the bowl.
Toss the mixture to combine it well.
Combine the cream and honey in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the salad and toss it again.
Cover the bowl with a plate and chill in the refrigerator before serving.
Pork Sausage Patties (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)
Most pioneer families raised at least one hog every year, which they butchered in the fall. Hogs were very easy to care for – they would eat table scraps and leftovers that couldn’t be saved, as well as grains that the family grew on their farm. Much of the meat was preserved by smoking it, and every other part of the pig was used – the skin was used to make leather, the fat was used for cooking, the bristles were used to make brushes, even the brains were eaten!
1 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
1/2 tsp salt (I would actually recommend 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
Put the pork in a mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper, and spices. Mix well with a spoon.
Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball, then flatten into a patty.
Heat a skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Arrange sausage patties in the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Turn the patties and cook for 4 minutes on the other side.
Remove the patties and drain any grease.
Cook each side once more for an additional 3-4 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer for doneness. Be careful no to overcook!
Time for Dessert!
The Swedish made lots of tasty treats! These Swedish pancakes are quick and easy and so delicious! You can fill them with jam, like Kirsten did. Kirsten would have helped her mother make jams from wild berries and fruits she helped to pick. It was a way to preserve the fruit for the seasons when it couldn’t be found fresh.
Swedish Pancakes (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)
6 tablespoons butter
2 cups milk
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon oil (I used butter for this and it worked fine)
Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Turn off heat.
Beat eggs with a wire whisk.
Add 1/2 cup of milk and beat the mixture for 2 minutes with the whisk.
Add the flour to the egg mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Beat in the remaining milk and add the butter, salt, and cinnamon.
Add the oil (or butter) to the skillet. Heat until very hot.
Drop about a tablespoon of the thin batter into the skillet for each pancake (I actually used about 1/4 cup of batter. 1 Tablespoon made the pancake much smaller than I wanted).
After about 1 minute, the edges of the pancake will brown lightly. Turn the pancake and cook the other side for 1 minute. Remove from pan.
Scoop a little jam into the center of the pancake, roll it up, and eat it right away! So tasty!
Another job that Kirsten helped with was making butter. Making butter was hard work and it took some time. Many pioneers helped pass the time by singing churning songs to the rhythm of the pounding of the dasher in the churn. The following is an English churning song, so it would have been sung by pioneers from England. Kirsten probably had her own Swedish churning song!
Come, Butter, Come
Come, butter, come; Come, butter, come, Peter stands at the gate Waiting for his butter cake; Come, butter, come.
Making butter is easy and pretty fun too! I’m going to show you how to do it with a butter churn, but if you don’t have one (which I guess you probably don’t) don’t worry! I’ll show you how to do it in a mason jar.
What you need:
heavy cream (I used 1 quart)
a butter churn or mason jar with lid
marble if churning in a jar (optional)
The first step is to pour your heavy cream into the butter churn or jar. If you are using a jar, make sure your lid fits tightly. It is helpful to also have a clean marble in the jar to help with the churning, but it is not essential. Chill the jar and marble for an hour or so to help the churning go faster.
Next, start churning! For the churn, just plunge the dasher (the wooden part that goes in the churn) up and down over and over. This is where the churning song comes in, as you are going to be doing this for a while!
Next, keep churning! You will notice after a bit that your cream is getting thicker. Keep going!
After a while you will have nice thick whipped cream. Your butter is on its way!
But keep churning! After a while longer, you will see some butter start to form, but you aren’t done yet! The fat is coming together in the butter, but you haven’t finished until you see liquid separating out from the butter. That liquid is buttermilk. Keep churning!
When you see lots of buttermilk separated from your butter, you are finally done churning! This will take about 30 minutes to an hour from the time you started churning. This is what it will look like:
Now, strain the buttermilk off the butter and save it in a jar. Use it to make some yummy biscuits or pancakes!
Now, rinse your strained butter in a bowl of ice water. Try to get all the buttermilk out of the butter by squeezing it in your hands. You can use a cheesecloth to help you with this. This sounds really messy, but the ice helps the butter get nice and solid, so its doesn’t melt all over your hands.
Once all the buttermilk is out, put your butter in a bowl and add some sea salt. 1/2 tablespoon was just about right for the butter made from 1 quart of milk, but add salt to taste. Mix the salt in with a spoon, then put your butter on a piece of parchment paper. Wrap it and store it in the fridge or freezer. You can also mold your butter by scooping it into candy molds and placing it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so.
Some of the early colonists were puritans and were known for their plain and somber style of dress. But not where Felicity lived! In the Virginia colony, people loved fashion! They imitated the latest styles in England and they liked to wear fancy and beautiful clothing, shoes, accessories, and wigs. The wealthier colonists imported much of their clothing from England, Holland, and other European countries. Let’s learn about the clothing that Felicity would have worn as a girl of the middling sort in colonial Williamsburg!
Undergarments: Colonial undergarments for a young lady like Felicity consisted of a minimum of a shift and stays.
Shift: The shift was the undermost undergarment. It was plain linen and sometimes trimmed in lace.
Stays: These were worn to help a girl or woman to have good posture. It might surprise you to learn that young boys wore stays too! Boys and girls began wearing stays at around 18 months or whenever they could walk well. They wore the stays over a shift or a child’s gown. Boys wore stays until somewhere between the age of 4-7 when they began dressing like men. Girls continued to wear stays into adulthood. In Felicity’s day, stays were not worn for the purpose of making the waist smaller, but for good posture and support.
Pocket: A pocket in Felicity’s time was a separate item that was actually worn under a petticoat (which is the word the colonists used to refer to a skirt). Felicity’s petticoats had slits in the sides so she could reach in and put her hand in her pocket. The pocket was tied around the waist and could come loose, so it was actually possible to loose one’s pocket! A pocket in colonial times was very large compared to pockets that are sewn into clothing today, so you can see how Felicity’s could put sugar or ginger in her pocket (mentioned in Meet Felicity)!
Pocket Hoops: Another type of pocket, pocket hoops served the dual purpose of acting as a pocket to hold things and to give shape and fullness to a petticoat.
Now for the actual clothing! The word “dress” in colonial times did not refer to a dress the way it does today. “Dress” was someone’s overall ensemble, whether male or female. Maybe that’s why we say it’s time to “get dressed” even when we aren’t wearing a dress! “Undress” was the term for everyday work clothes, “fashionable undress” referred to clothing that was less formal, but still very fashionable. “Full dress” was the term for the most fashionable formal attire.
The following ensemble would be “full dress” for Felicity.
Petticoat: In later centuries, the word petticoat referred to an undergarment, but not in colonial times. In Felicity’s day a petticoat was a skirt. Felicity’s pocket hoops help make her petticoat look full.
Gown: A “gown” in colonial times was a bodice like the one Felicity is wearing that is connected to an open skirt that shows the petticoat underneath. It was very common in styles of colonial full dress and fashionable undress to wear a gown with a petticoat. Notice how the sides have a slit that allow Felicity to reach into her pockets!
Stomacher: The stomacher was a triangular piece of clothing that attached to the front of the bodice on a gown and held it together. It could be plain or fancy, stiff or flexible, and might match the gown or be made of contrasting fabric. Stomachers could be used interchangeably to give a gown a new look. It was fastened to the gown with pins, hooks and eyes, or lacing.
Pinner Cap: This was a fashionable finishing touch to Felicity’s full dress. It was pinned to the hairstyle. Now Felicity is ready for a ball!
Now let’s take a look at some “undress” and “fashionable undress.”
Cap: Colonial girls and women wore caps just about all the time. A cap served the purpose of keeping the hair clean so it did not have to be washed constantly. Williamsburg was dusty because the streets were made of sand, so this was important! The cap also dressed the head without styling the hair (because who had time for that everyday?!). Caps were sometimes made of lace and could be dressed up to suit more formal dress. They were worn indoors and usually a hat was worn over the cap outdoors.
Caraco: This was a jacket that was worn with a petticoat. It was always in the category of “undress” and was worn at home or for informal activities.
Pinner: This was an apron worn over a day gown. It was pinned at the top and used to keep the dress clean.
Cape: This was used for warmth in the winter.
Summer Gown: Williamsburg was very very hot in the summertime, so ladies wore the lightest weight clothing that they could. Often summer clothing was made of lightweight white linen.
Stockings and Garters: A lady always wore stockings underneath her gown and held them up with garters, which essentially were ribbons that were tied around the legs.
Day Gown: This gown is fairly simple in style and would have been worn for normal daily activities. An apron might have been worn over a similar gown for household work.
Nightgown and Cap: Felicity would have worn her shift to bed, or a nightgown which was very similar in style to a shift. Colonists also wore caps that covered the ears and tied under the chin for warmth at night.
Make a Cap for Felicity (and one for you too!)
Making a colonial style cap is a pretty quick and easy project if you know how to sew.
You Will Need:
1/2 yard of a white cotton fabric
white all-purpose thread
1 yard of 3/8″ wide elastic
For a cap for an 18″ doll, cut two 12″ circles of the white fabric. For a child-sized cap, cut two 18″ circles from the white fabric. For both caps, stitch 1/4″ seam around the outside of the cap, leaving a 1″ opening to turn the cap. Turn the cap right-side out and iron the cap, pressing out the seam.
Now stitch an inner circle on the cap by stitching 1″ from the edge on the doll cap all the way around, and 2″ inches from the edge of the child’s cap. Make sure you complete the circle. Now stitch another circle parallel to your first inner circle but 1/2″ closer to the edge of the cap. Leave a 1″ opening on this circle. Line this opening up with the opening on the outside of the cap. These inner circles form a casing for the elastic.
Now, cut 13″ of elastic for the doll cap and 19″ for the child’s cap. Feed the elastic through the opening of the casing with a safety pin or short bodkin. Overlap 1″ of the elastic and stitch the overlapped elastic together well.
Now pull the elastic into the casing and stitch up the openings on the caps. If you would like, you can add a pretty ribbon around the edge to make your cap fancy, or leave it as is.
Make a Hat for Felicity!
Colonial women used caps to keep their hair clean and covered, and when they went outdoors they wore hats over their caps to keep their complexions fashionably fair.
To make a hat for your 18″ doll, find a straw hat at your local craft store or here. You will want a hat that is about 7″ in diameter. You will also need a spool of 1/2″ ribbon, some small fake flowers, and a a hot glue gun and hot glue.
Cut a 1/2″ slit on opposite sides of the hat where the brim meets the center. Center a 24″ piece of ribbon over the top of the hat and feed the ends through the slits.
Glue the ribbon in place with small dots of glue at the base of the hat on either side. Now make a pattern of flowers on the brim of your hat however you would like and glue them in place. That’s it!
Kirsten Larson was a young girl who lived in Ryd, Sweden in 1854. Her family decided to come to America to make a better life for themselves. In America, there was plenty of land and the lots of possibilities. So the Larsons sold their home, their animals, and almost everything else that they owned, packed a trunk with their most important possessions, a few bundles of supplies for the journey, and boarded a ship to cross the atlantic.
Immigrate to America!
We pretended to immigrate to America with our dolls. I hung flags from the wall of the three countries that represented most European immigrants to America during Kirsten’s time: Germany, Sweden, and Ireland. I had each of the girls draw a card with two names and a country on it (one name for them and one for their doll). The names were actual German, Swedish, and Irish names from Kirsten’s time period. You can find names like this on ancestry.com or familysearch.org. I then had each girl stand by the flag of the country they were pretending to leave. We talked about why so many people were leaving these countries and immigrating to America.
For the Swedish, it was mostly because Sweden had become very crowded and there wasn’t enough land for people to farm. The king had divided each farm in half to try to make more land available for people who had no land, but this made the problem worse because families could not grow enough food to feed themselves. One poor crop could be a disaster for a family. Many Swedish families were struggling to survive. The United States government was wanting people to settle its territories because it believed it would help the country become stronger. The government offered people land at very little cost to encourage them to settle the western parts of the country. The promise of inexpensive land to settle prompted many Swedish people to leave their home country to start a new life.
Many people were leaving Germany because of war. There had been years of political unrest and war in Germany, as well as famine and extreme poverty. Many people were leaving Germany to escape famine and war, or to escape punishment for political action.
The Irish had been suffering from famine for many years because of a disease that killed potatoes, which was their staple food source. Many Irish were starving to death and many others fled to America.
Note: There were also many immigrants from China during this time, but they immigrated to California and had a very different story than Kirsten’s family, so I did not include them in our activities.
Cross the Atlantic
Once the girls had a country and a name, we “boarded a boat” and crossed the Atlantic. I happen to have a small kayak and so we used that as a boat, just so they could get the idea that the journey to America was crowded and uncomfortable. We pushed our boat down the hall to America!
It would have taken Kirsten’s family at least six weeks to cross the Atlantic. They and most other immigrants would have traveled in the steerage compartment which was crowded, dirty, foul-smelling, and dark. Because of the unsanitary conditions, many people became sick and even died on the journey. They also usually had to provide their own food, which sometimes ran out or spoiled before the journey was over. They drank from a shared water barrel which contributed to the spread of illness. You can imagine how happy they were to arrive in America at last!
When Kirsten’s family arrived in America, they landed in New York City, but she wouldn’t have seen the Statue of Liberty like later immigrants, and she wouldn’t have gone through an immigration station. The first immigration station in America was opened a year later. It was called Castle Garden. Decades later it was closed when Ellis Island opened. A health inspector would have boarded the boat that Kirsten had traveled on and checked the passengers for disease. If the inspector had found sick passengers the boat would have been quarantined for up to a few weeks, or even sent back to Europe. If everyone seemed healthy, the passengers would have been allowed to enter New York and proceed on their journeys.
Some of the immigrants would have stayed in New York, but others, like the Larsons would have had farther to travel. They would have arrived in New York and had to arrange travel by train or boat to their final destination. In the Larson’s case, they traveled to Chicago by train, then by steamboat on the Mississippi River, then finally they walked to their final destination in Minnesota. Other immigrants would have traveled farther west by covered wagon on the Oregon Trail. Whatever the form of transportation they used, most immigrants did not speak English, and had to arrange it while communicating in a foreign language. They also had to find work, food, and lodging without being able to speak easily with those around them. Sounds pretty challenging doesn’t it!
To get a feel for how hard it would have been to try to navigate life in a new country where you don’t speak the language, we played immigrant charades. We had to try to get the group to guess the following phrases without using words:
I need food.
I need a job.
I need a place to sleep.
I need to buy a train ticket.
My baby is sick, I need a doctor.
I need water.
How do I get to the river?
When the Larsons arrived in America, the American flag had 31 stars for the 31 states that were part of the United States at that time. They settled in Minnesota, which was then part of the Minnesota Territory. We put sticky notes on a United States map to get a visual on which states were not yet states.
We then mapped the Larson family’s journey by train to Chicago and their steamboat trip up the Mississippi River to Minnesota. We also drew the Oregon Trail onto the map so we could see the route that other immigrants and pioneers took west to settle the Oregon Territory.
Make an America Chest for Kirsten
Most immigrant families had to pack all the belongings that they brought with them to America in just one wooden chest, which the immigrants called their America chest. Anything that wouldn’t fit they had to carry in their arms or leave behind. What would you pack in your “America chest”? You can make an America chest for Kirsten!
You can find a little wooden chest like this at a craft store or on Amazon. Give it a coat of paint, and then you can trace a Swedish folk print on it, like this one.