A Research Trail: Finding the Finnish Midwife

The trip to Finland in 2017 had several purposes. We were meeting some relatives for the first time at a family reunion in northern Finland.

After the reunion my husband I traveled south by train. When we arrived in Vaasa (western coast of Finland) we rented a car. The midwife that I had been researching lived in the area at one time. Her husband had owned a brewery in Anixor, which I assumed was a village outside of the city.

I wondered how we might find this place. We visited a museum village not far outside of Vaasa and I asked questions as we toured. When we left the museum and were back on the road, we saw signs for Old Vaasa and decided to check it out. We stumbled on the Korsholms parish church. 

We parked the car and I approached a man who was walking a dog and asked him if he knew where Anixor was. I showed him information I had found on the internet. He read it over and said, “No, but you could ask the priest. He is at the back of the church.”

We walked around the back, looking for an entrance. I saw a doorbell on the addition to the church and pressed it. As we stood waiting, a woman walked towards us. I showed her my information. She recognized the name, Anixor, but said. “It is a very small village, just a few houses. I don’t know how to tell you the way.”

As we were talking the priest came out and joined the discussion. He said, “I have a computer. We can google it.” He invited us to follow him, and we went into his living quarters. He was able to find a map that showed the place and the way to get there.

As we were talking, I explained that I was interested in the Pörn family that once lived in Anixor.

I asked if there were parish records.

He responded, “We must go see the church secretary.” He led us to another building on the church grounds.

The secretary listened with interest as I showed her an article about the midwife who had immigrated to the United States in 1895. She patiently went through the books of church records. 

She was able to find Hanna’s birth date, her marriage to Karl Edward and the date their son’s birth. She also found the death date of both son and husband. The family’s home in Anixor was listed as Lalle Farm.

She found information showing that Hanna had moved to Helsinki for two years after the death of her husband, presumably to take a nursing course.

After expressing many thanks to the priest and secretary, my husband drove to the little village of Anixor. It was down a country road and the area was bordered by a river. We found the house where Hanna had lived with Karl and extended family.

Some times research requires wandering.

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Why I am Resisting, in Pursuit of Health

The leaves are changing color, flames of red and gold.

The fall roses are still blooming in northern Michigan. God has inscribed color and beauty on earth.

The design of the earth and its seasons, the design of all creatures, the design of the human body comes from God, our creator. We have an intricate immune system to confront infections and disease.

The Bible offers guidance to healthy living. Our daily diet, activity and rest can support the immune system and health. When infection and disease break through the body’s defenses, doctors and medical treatment can help heal. 

I am grateful for the tools that medicine has developed. Recently my husband underwent ablation to correct atrial fibrillation of his heart. This outpatient surgical procedure stopped the arrythmia. Modern medicine is able to assist healing in an amazing way.

We have come to depend on vaccines to prevent disease, but we are still learning about the methods used to produce them, the risks and benefits. The MMR vaccine, specifically the rubella portion, was the first to be developed following experimentation with aborted fetuses. Cooperation between medical researchers at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and in Finland (abortion was not yet legal in the U.S., but had been legalized in Finland) took place in the late 1960s early 1970s.

Timo Vesikari describes his experience with pregnant women scheduled for abortion in this article, “From Rubella to Rotavirus and Beyond” published in Human Vaccine and Immunotherapies [June 2015; 11(06):1302-1305].

Next, in late 1966, I was incredibly lucky to meet Antti Vaheri (later Professor of Virology) who had just returned to Finland from the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia with all the latest knowledge in rubella research. Rubella virus hemagglutination had been discovered and with hemagglutination inhibition (HI) test available I was soon running a diagnostic rubella laboratory which not only provided material for research but also created real income for the Department and our group. This set a precedent for my later professional life Grants are good but it is better if the research funding can be obtained from outside . . . Under the seniors I was to do much of work: vaccinate pregnant women prescreened to be seronegative for rubella and scheduled to have a legal abortion a week or two later. The plan was to isolate rubella (vaccine) virus from the products of conception and, in fact, we succeeded in doing that.

The article, Isolation of Attenuated Rubella-Vaccine from Human Products of Conception and Uterine Cervix, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1972. Seven doctors (including Timo Vesikari) participated in this study led by Dr. Antti Vaheri.

From the article: “Pregnancy was terminated in 30 cases by hysterotomy and in five cases by curettage . . . Most of the samples obtained by hysterotomy were delivered to the laboratory still surrounded by intact membranes.

It has been reported that just one line of cells from one aborted fetus was used for the vaccine. What is not reported– all the aborted fetuses used in the research leading up to vaccines. Universities who are receiving grants for medical research (tax dollars) continue to utilize baby parts for research. We are sacrificing human life on the altar of medical research.

So, there is the abortion business, but what about about tinkering with the immune system? Early development of covid-19 vaccines relied on research using fetal tissue. But this vaccine is not like any vaccine offered in the past. It does not carry a bit of the virus for the immune system to identify and attack. Instead, it programs the cells of the body to produce a spike protein. It interacts with the immune system in a new way (with unknown longterm effects). 

Doctors and scientists (Geert Vanden Bossche PhD, Dr. Peter McCullough, Dr. Zelenko) have spoken out against the use of the vaccine, claiming that we have no idea what the long-term effects will be. A recent article by Vanden Bossche, gives a different perspective on the way to treat the pandemic. 

I am concerned that the vaccine is being recommended to pregnant women. The New England Journal of Medicine published an article, indicating that the vaccine seemed to be safe even though the data listed was preliminary and incomplete. Later they posted a correction to the article. More data is needed.

The government and the media are so eager to get everyone vaccinated. We live in a climate of fear. And yet I know a number of people that have had covid and recovered. I am puzzled by the way early treatment is being blocked.

Pharmacies won’t fill prescriptions for ivermectin even though it is being used successfully in other countries for early treatment. Regeneron has shown success but the government is limiting access to it. Only lately has the benefit of vitamin D3 been recognized although a study was done in 2020. A more recent study confirming the benefit has been released.

Three years ago lab work showed that I had an insufficient level of vitamin D. In blood work it is called vitamin D, 25-OH. A sufficient level is 30 to 100 ng/ml. After taking daily vitamin D3 supplements for three years my level has improved to 49. The conclusion of the recent study suggests a level of 50 ng/ml completely reduces the risk of death. 

Another article, Twenty Steps to End the Madness, was published by the Brownstone Institute.

A doctor in Orange County, California gives an assessment of the vaccine and the variants emerging. Because of censorship his comments are recorded on bitCHUTE instead of YouTube.

I am deeply saddened by censorship and the division that is taking place between people who have chosen vaccination and those that are pursuing health by strengthening their immune system, planning early treatment if they should get sick.

Over the years, I have read reflections on WWII. I have read a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It has made me think about Germany. Bonhoeffer raised an alarm. How many listened to him? Were people afraid? Did they simply want normal life to continue? Was the evil too great for them to comprehend?

Additional resources that look at the vaccine industry: A former nurse writes about vaccines and Stanley Plotkin (lead researcher at the Wistar Institute). The High Wire provides current information about vaccines, promoting informed consent.

We are at a significant place in time. We need God’s help. 

Updated: The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines do not contain fetal cells but early research and design of the vaccines used a fetal cell line (HEK293T).

Additional resource, published in News Medical Life Sciences: Research suggests Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reprograms innate immune responses

My Finnish Grandmother Was a Copper Country Woman

At the beginning of the twentieth century my grandmother immigrated to a mining town in Upper Michigan, from Finland. She married a copper miner in the Copper Country. Long after my grandmother passed away I learned about the miner’s strike and a disaster that killed 73 people, most of them children, most of them Finnish.

The family story is that my grandmother was at the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan. A Christmas party was organized for the families—the children—of striking miners.

Over five months the tensions between striking mine workers and the mine company had risen to a feverish pitch. The mine company was supported by Citizen’s Alliance (local business owners). Some one shouted fire at the Christmas party, but there was no fire. Children and adults were killed when they ran to exit the building. Bodies fell over each other on a stairway.

My grandmother with her children exited the building a different way, maybe by the fire escape.

I never had a chance to ask my grandmother or grandfather about about this event. It happened before my mother was born and her knowledge was limited.

A friend passed along a newly released book, The Women of the Copper Country, by Mary D. Russell. The book is a novel but the author has done admirable research to bring the year leading up to the Italian Hall disaster to life. The main character is a historic figure. 

Big Annie Clemenc was president of the Woman’s Auxillary of the Western Federation of Miners. The miner’s strike began at the end of July and continued into the following year. The Christmas party was organized by the Women’s Auxillary and  took place on December 24, 1913.

The book showed me a period of time in my grandmother’s life. The author’s description of Calumet resonates with my knowledge. In a few places, I found the fiction stretching my imagination. But the author acknowledged the areas that might not be exactly right in her notes at the end of the book.

The Birth in Bethlehem

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

God’s amazing design is before us in the birth of Jesus. Jesus did not enter our world as an adult. He came as an infant, fully human and also God. 

He wasn’t born in a palace or a hospital equipped with modern technology. His birth was dependent on the natural physical ability of a young woman to give birth.

God didn’t need human intervention to carry out his plan for our good. This fills me with joy and trust. We can rest, knowing God is sovereign over our world. 

Luke, the physician wrote in his gospel: And while they [Joseph and Mary] were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in manger because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2: 6-7

Birth in Bethlehem
Painting in a Cathedral in Finland

Have a blessed and joyous Christmas!

This post is shared with the Five Minute Friday writing community. Today’s prompt is: BIRTH

Also linking with Sue’s image-in-ing and Inspire Me Monday .

Traditions and Heritage

My mother picked strawberries and wild blueberries with her mother, and so did I. My Finnish heritage has given me a an appreciation for berries, wild and cultivated. 

Berries are abundant in Finland (37 types of edible wild berries) and an important addition to the diet. Enjoyment of berries is a family tradition.

According to a website about Finland: Nordic growing conditions are harsh yet productive. The berries and mushrooms that grow in Finnish forests are part of the traditional Finnish diet, and gathering them is a pastime for many families that has been passed down through generations. The fruits of the northern forests are coveted by gourmet chefs, and are increasingly exported.

When my children were little, thimbleberry jam had become popular in Upper Michigan. The wild thimbleberries grow along ditches and creek beds, sometimes not far from the rugged glory of Lake Superior.

When we visited Grandpa and Grandma in Upper Michigan, we joined them on excursions to find and pick the berries. We cleaned the berries as a family project. Grandma made jam and I learned how to make it too.

Bowl of Thimbleberries

Thimbleberry jam is lovely treat during winter. It brings back memories of the summer, hiking in Upper Michigan.

I have gradually added to the berries growing in my back yard, discovering which ones flourish. Blueberries and thimbleberries don’t do well. I have strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, elderberries and currants. The grandchildren delight in picking them, especially the raspberries and currants.

Raspberries
Currants
Elderberries

I pick and freeze the elderberries and in the fall I make elderberry juice.

Gooseberry
Gooseberries

Gooseberries are a nice addition to apple pie, adding a rich flavor.

This post is part of Write28Days. For a full list of posts click here.

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Flying to Finland to visit my Grandmother’s birthplace

In July of last year my husband and I flew to Finland to visit my grandmother’s birthplace and to attend a family reunion. We had a nonstop flight on Finnair from Chicago to Helsinki Finland. Relatives met us at the airport.

My grandmother’s travel to the United States was much more arduous. She traveled by boat from Oulu, Finland to the port city Hanko. From Hanko she took another boat to Hull, England, then a train from Hull to Liverpool. As far as I know she traveled alone in 1903.

In Liverpool she boarded the Ultonia (a former livestock carrier). She traveled third class in steerage. She had a bunk, along with many other immigrants, in the hold of the ship. This crowded space had inadequate sanitation, and many of the passengers were seasick. I can’t imagine what she endured.

She arrived in Boston and was directed to a train  that  took  her  to  Chicago.    From Chicago she took a train to  the  Upper  Peninsula  of  Michigan where she was met by two of her brothers.

My grandmother had told family members that she planned to go back to Finland to visit one day. But after completing her journey to Michigan, she decided that she could never make such a difficult journey again. Instead she asked her daughters to promise that they would one day visit Finland.

Vuostimo Finland
House that neighbored my grandmother’s girlhood home (now gone).

My mother, my aunt and my sisters have all made the trip. We are blessed by the ease of air travel.

Linking with the Five Minute Friday Community. Today’s prompt is: FLY

Where the Reindeer Run Free

This past summer my husband and I traveled to Finland. We visited the village where my grandmother grew up, north of the artic circle.

We enjoyed seeing the pristine forests, rivers and lakes.

Finland

And we saw reindeer roaming freely. They graze in the forests, fields and even in yards adjacent to cabins. The lichen growing in the forest is a favored food.

Reindeer

We were amazed to see a couple dozen reindeer run past a strip of stores.

Reindeer

During the summer it is always daylight. But now as winter approaches the sun makes a much shorter appearance, skimming along the horizon. The reindeer are gathered in herds and taken care of by Lapland herders.

Linking this post with Sue’s Wordless Wednesday

The Midwife’s Story

A number of years ago I read an article about a Finnish midwife. In 1909 she had been at the center of a court case, determining the legality of midwifery in Massachusetts. She had been arrested a number of times (despite the fact that her statistics for live births were better than most doctors practicing in the area).

I was struck by her determination, her sisu, in serving childbearing women in Gardner, Massachusetts. Why did she persist after multiple court appearances and a three-month sentence in the House of Corrections?

Her persistence fascinated me. So I began researching her life. I visited Gardner, Massachusetts and found her burial place in the Crystal Lake Cemetery. During the trip that my husband and I made to Finland, I visited the parish where she lived. The church records listed the significant dates in her life.

The court cases that were brought against Hanna influenced the decline of midwifery in the first half of the twentieth century. I am in the process of writing her story.

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is STORY.  Visit this writing community by clicking here.

The Church in Turku

Every Friday the FMF community writes for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. To visit this inspiring community of writers, click here. Today’s prompt is: PLACE

While we were in Finland we visited Turku, a beautiful old city. It was the “capitol” of Finland when Finland was under Swedish rule.

Rising above the town is the tower and cross of the Lutheran Church. We walked from our hotel to this landmark.

The Church in Turku

The church is kept open for visitors. People were ascending the stairs as we approached.

The doors were ornate.

The Church in Turku

I took a deep breath as we entered this place. The architecture is magnificent.

I was most drawn to the painting behind the altar,  with the focus  on    Jesus, resurrected and ascending to heaven.

The Church in Turku

// Since we have returned home I have thought a lot about the church in Finland. Every city has a cathedral-like church. The Lutheran Church is the state church. Weddings and funerals are conducted there. But I did not get a sense of the people of the church. When I talked with my Finnish relatives, the concept of a community of believers was outside of their experience. The magnificent churches demonstrate the heritage of faith. And so I am led to pray for revival and a fresh experience of faith in Finland.

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