Friday, February 10, 2012

To Irma Juhlin

This postcard of the Newton Theological Institution (now part of the Andover Newton Theological School) in Newton, Massachusetts is one of the occasional cases where we can — tentatively — provide a biography for the recipient. The card, which was postmarked in September 1905, is addressed to Irma Juhlin at 404 Waltham Street in West Newton; the sender's name, written vertically at far right, may be Ida. The first three words, "My Dear Irma," are in English, but the remainder of the inscription, which is very hard to make out, apparently is not and may be Swedish.

An Irma Juhlin emigrated from Sweden to the Boston area in 1902 and in 1910 married Axel Eliason, a fellow emigrant. Six years later they were hired by a wealthy Bostonian named George Nixon Black, Jr. to serve as caretakers for Woodlawn, his estate in Maine, where they remained there until they died, Axel in 1965 and Irma 1970. Irma was renowned for her afternoon teas, a Woodlawn tradition that has outlived her.

The Woodlawn Museum has no record of Irma's address before she came to Woodlawn (other than that it was in the Boston area). If the two women are in fact the same, then Irma would have only been in the US for three years when the postcard was mailed to her. "Ida" may have been a relative or just a friend. I don't know whether Irma or Axel were employed by the Black family before they took over the maintenance of Woodlawn.

I'd love to hear from anyone who can translate the inscription or provide any additional information about Irma Juhlin.

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