Technology helps birth new Fargo lodge

As DofN prepares to charter a new lodge, Larrie Wanberg takes a peek into the organization’s sisterhood

Photo: Larrie Wanberg 94-year-old Jo Grondahl uses her iPad to share photos of her family. Daughters of Norway Rosanna Gutterud Johnsrud Lodge #53 is the first to have iPads and smart phones as primary means of dialogues during its start-up phase.

Photo: Larrie Wanberg
94-year-old Jo Grondahl uses her iPad to share photos of her family. Daughters of Norway Rosanna Gutterud Johnsrud Lodge #53 is the first to have iPads and smart phones as primary means of dialogues during its start-up phase.

Larrie Wanberg
Features Editor

I never knew any of my grandparents on either side, but clearly it was the maternal grandmothers who passed on the Norwegian traditions and stories in stacks of letters to my mother, who shared them with me and my siblings.

Jill Beatty, in an interview last week in Fargo, reflected, “Not all of us may have known our ethnic grandmothers, nor have children or grandchildren that we can share these conversations with, but we have each other within the sisterhood of the Daughters of Norway (DofN).”

It struck a chord in our conversational interview.

She continued, “Our organization exists to share this Norwegian heritage, which includes stories of a grandmother’s beloved bunad (an elaborate folk dress) that distinctly identifies the place in Norway that was once a place where ancestors lived, the solje jewelry that gets handed down, to appreciate the treasure of the hand-painted rose painted chest in the living room, how to make Hardanger embroidery, or roll lefse or bake krumkaker—all are cherished by so many.

“Our sisterhood understands why we have a calmness in the house when candles are lit in the darkness of winter at the Christmas table or at church, and our love for storytelling to wide-eyed children, or dancing to music that pulls from within. We share these experiences in a true sisterhood with each other—a common bond of our Nordic heritage from the country with roots that took hold in America … our roots that continue to grow.”

Jill is organizational chairperson from the Grand Lodge committee from San Francisco, who conducted in Fargo last Saturday the final of six organizational sessions leading up to chartering the new Rosanna Gutterud Johnsrud Lodge #53 on October 11. The next biannual DofN convention is scheduled for San Francisco in July of 2016.

In our conversation, I playfully questioned why I could not join, since my wife was born in Norway, spouses are eligible and Norway is a leading matriarchal society in the world that recognizes equality among genders. By law, DofN is in a category that provides a notable exception to Norway’s formal Gender Equality Act. One understands why the exemption is granted when one sits alongside the table of a DofN planning meeting.

Sensing the spirit of purpose in a sisterhood’s dedication to preserve Norwegian heritage is a worthy exception—an exceptionable exception in my view.

The Fargo Lodge is a trendsetter, a resurgence of “Døtre av Norge” since its beginnings in1908 as an artisan carrier of Norwegian culture in the homes and lives of Norwegian heritage in the Midwest and West Coast.

The new Lodge in Fargo engages technology in its start-up, using Skype for the first time in the beginning steps of chartering a lodge, with iPads and smart phones as a means of preliminary dialogues.

The fact is, the energy and enthusiasm that I observed was not only in the clusters of conversations, but the outreach of sharing information that extends into digital networks—some flowing across generations and continents.

RuthElda Haugen, age 89, was a highlight in a Bunad fashion parade in the Rotunda at the “Mall of America” in conjunction with this year’s DofN convention, held in Minneapolis in July. She reminisced about her years of teaching that once included student Allan Ingvar Olson, who later became governor of N.D. (1981-84). RuthElda uses her iPad to keep in touch with networks of friends and family by emails.

The most impressive observation to me, as a bystander, was the substantive discussions of a grand vision for regional growth of DofN lodges in the Upper Midwest.
One of the lofty ideals that I heard mentioned was a vision for a future museum that documents the lives of pioneer Norwegian women, especially the namesakes of the 53 lodges that have existed over the last 100 years.

Women as members were integrated into Sons of Norway in 1950s, although auxiliaries were established as early as 1916. Today, anyone with an interest in Norwegian culture can join SofN and the organization is growing. However, DofN holds fast, from independent onset in 1908, to its purpose of passing on Norwegian traditions in the homes of Norwegian-Americans into the 4th and 5th generations.

Ninety-four year old Jo Grondahl of Fargo took me aside with her iPad and showed me proudly the diversity in her generations of family, saying her own ethnic origins were not Norwegian, but she was honoring the genes of her passed husband to keep the Norwegian genes alive in her family.

I lamented with her, as a “sparkplug” Fargo organizing member, comparing our situations: her being widowed as a spouse of Norwegian descent and my deceased wife being born in Norway. Yet I could not join DofN.

She pleasantly pointed me in a new direction by clarifying that men can participate, simply by supporting spouses, siblings, relatives, and those who nurture the Norwegian heritage in the homes by women who pass on traditions to future generations.

She nudged me, expressing the wisdom of 94 years, and with a twinkle in her eyes said, “Hey, you can participate: make a donation; support a scholarship; you’ve got a daughter, sign her up!”

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 12, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

Avatar photo

Larrie Wanberg

Larrie Wanberg, 1920–2021, contributed features to The Norwegian American for many years, drawing on eight decades of life experience highlighted by three career recognitions: as a researcher through a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway in 1957; as a health care provider in behavioral science through a 27-year military career and awarded upon retirement in 1981 the highest non-combat medal, the Legion of Merit medal; as an educator, through a 50-year career in college education, culminating in the 2010 Public Scholar award at the UND Center for Community Engagement. Wanberg passed away in May, 2021.