Washington Island Cancellation

August 3, 2021

I am very sorry to report that my visit to Fair Isle Books & Gifts on Washington Island, scheduled for August 7, has been cancelled. I look forward to seeing my Door County friends at the store next year.

In this meantime, I hope you will support this wonderful independent bookstore (which also sells fair trade items)! The physical shop is open seasonally, but virtual purchases are available all year long.

Signed bookplates will be available at the shop. If you purchase a book from Fair Isle (in person or online) any time during the month of August, and would like a personalized bookplate, contact me.

Folk Arts, Fjords, and Fiddles – 2022!

July 14, 2021

Let’s try this again!

After a pandemic-caused delay, I’m thrilled to announce new dates for the Chloe Ellefson-themed tour of Southern Norway.

When I decided on a Norwegian setting for Fiddling With Fate, the 10th volume in my Chloe Ellefson Mysteries, I chose the area that enchanted me most. In partnership with the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society, I invite you to join me in May, 2022, on a trip to the land of Chloe’s ancestors!

Click the image below to see what we have planned.

We have a Tour Norway With Kathleen website created just for the adventure! It’s your portal for trip information—hotel and destination links, a schedule of Constitution Day festivities (we’ll be in Bergen for the holiday), and more.

Quick Links:

Full Trip Brochure
Travel Insurance

We’ve forged a relationship with Borton Overseas for our 2022 adventure. (Our original travel agent, who did so much to develop our plans, is enjoying a well-earned retirement.)

Borton Overseas began in 1894 as Sunden, Vanstrum, and Co., specializing in steamship travel for Scandinavian immigrants coming to the U.S. We’ll have over a century of experience supporting our trip!

For more information:

amy@bortonoverseas.com
1-612-661-4634
800-843-0602

Discounts are available for members of Sons of Norway, Swedish Institute, Danish American Center, and Norway House.

Note: If the pandemic presents any unexpected challenges for 2022, we will immediately contact you to discuss options. At this time, we don’t know if the Norwegian government will require vaccinations.

However, for the safety ad peace of mind of all, the Mount Horeb Area Historical Society kindly requests that travelers be vaccinated against Covid-19 to participate in this tour. Please keep this in mind when registering. The most up-to-date information regarding entry requirements will be provided as we get closer to our departure.

I’m dreaming of Norway. You too? I hope you can join us!

Logistics for the Hanka Homestead Tour

July 11, 2021

I’ve had some questions about carpooling and lodging relevant to the special Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum Tour on Saturday, August 21. This evocative historic site is the setting for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge.

The Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum is located in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Here’s a map.

Lodging is limited in the vicinity, so if you’re searching online for accommodations, you might need to cast a wider net than usual. The event doesn’t start until the afternoon, so you’ll have some time to travel that morning.

If you’re interested in attending and would like to share the driving with someone, let me know where you live and I’ll do what I can to help facilitate connections. For starters, a friend in the Madison, WI area is hoping to find a companion for the trip. Contact me if you can help.

For more information about this free program, visit my event registration page. It’s going to be an awesome afternoon!

June Newsletter Available

June 25, 2021

You can read it here. Lots of event news this month!

Widow of the Grasses

June 18, 2021

That’s what some people in Finland called a woman left behind when her husband immigrated to America.

(Sorrow, Albert Edelfelt, Finnish National Gallery)

Sadly, it was not uncommon for desperate poverty to force families to separate. Some men planned to earn what was needed to send passage money to their wives. Others planned to work for a while before returning to Finland in better financial shape. Although it often took years, many families were reunited.

Some women, however, never saw their husbands again. Letters stopped coming, the promised wages never arrived, and they were left alone to wonder what had gone wrong. Effectively widowed, these women were sometimes ostracized by their neighbors, or blamed for their husbands’ departures.

(Solvieg, Albert Edelfelt, Helsinki Art Museum)

Another term for the women left behind was Amerikan Leski, or America Widow. In 1905 one such woman, Elisa Valkama, published a song warning other Finnish women about men who left their wives behind. Here are the opening lyrics:

Since you left me, that two-timing husband, I have no pangs of sorrow. It’s a well-known thing in these here parts, an America Widow.

If you are a good upstanding wife or a happily engaged young girl, never never let your husband take to the road, or go traveling to the new world.

Many couples are no longer happy, it’s all because the man’s gone away. America’s call has captured men’s hearts, while he left his wife there to stay.

Do not say it’s America’s doing, there’s all too many wives left behind. Ignominy places them in a prison, there to face censure unkind.

To read the full lyrics, and hear the song, click the image below.

At least a few  Widows of the Grasses managed to make their way to America and search for their husbands. In 1905, a local newspaper  reported  that a woman arrived in Red Jacket, Michigan, in search of  her missing husband, Herman. She found him living with a woman he’d presented as his legitimate wife.

The abandoned woman must have been outraged, but she needed Herman to provide for her and their six children. Herman agreed to leave his illegitimate wife in favor of his lawful one. (Wife #2  responded by promptly emptying their bank account.)

Whether happily reunited with their husbands or not, it’s painful to imagine how difficult the situation was for all the women left behind in Finland—and the men who felt they had no other choice.

I decided to explore this topic in The Weaver’s Revenge in honor of all those who found themselves in that situation.

First, Second, Fortieth

June 2, 2021

I’m excited to announce my first book of poetry, my second release of 2021 (with one more to come), and my fortieth book! 

If you’ve enjoyed the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries or my non-fiction A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through The Seasons, I think you’ll like this collection as well. Here’s the scoop: 

The poems in Balancing were inspired by the experiences of women who, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, sought new homes in the Upper Midwest. Few women recorded their struggles and satisfactions, but by juxtaposing research and imagination, Kathleen Ernst breathes new life into their forgotten stories.

Balancing will be released on July 1st by Little Creek Press.

Please join me for the virtual launch party!

The party begins at 7 PM Thursday, July 1st, 2021. My beloved local independent bookstore, Mystery To Me, will host. Attendance is free but pre-registration is required.

I’ll share a few of the poems, and the stories that inspired them. Celebrated poet Andrea Potos will have some questions for me as well. 

I will be happy to sign and personalize copies of Balancing pre-ordered through Mystery To Me.

I’ve been reading immigrant diaries, letters, and reminiscences for forty years. These poems were inspired by details and moments that touched my heart.

I hope they touch yours as well. 

Two Virtual Programs This Week

May 26, 2021

No matter where you live, you’re invited!

If you missed my launch party for The Weaver’s Revenge, you have a second chance to see the program. Books & Company in Oconomowoc, WI, is hosting an author visit on Thursday, May 27, at 7 PM Central. Participation is free but registration is required. You can register online here.

Then on Sunday, May 30, at 10 AM Central, something different! The Free Congregation of Sauk County, WI, is hosting my presentation about A Settler’s Year: Pioneer Life Through the Seasons. This program is free and does not require preregistration. To learn how to tune in, click here.

I’d love to see you at either—or both!

Launch Party!

May 10, 2021

I invite you to join me for the virtual launch party for the 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge! The event is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 12, at 7 PM US Central time.

It will be hosted by Mystery to Me, my local indie bookstore. I’ll show slides of some of the people, places, and the past that inspired me to write the story.

This online event is free, but you must pre-register

I’ll also sign and personalize books for anyone who orders from Mystery To Me.

Although I miss in-person events, I’m delighted that geography won’t limit anyone. I hope to see you there!

Anna’s Loom

April 29, 2021

Thanks to reader Robyn S., I have another loom to show you—and this one comes with a story!

Robyn, who is half Finnish, weaves on this loom at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista, CA. (Robyn refers to this as a Finnish Tree Loom, a perfect descriptor for what are also called root looms.)

Anna’s loom.

This story begins shortly after World War II, when many people in Finland were struggling with poverty. Finnish immigrant Matt Rihinen, a dairy farmer in Negaunee, MI, began collecting clothing donations on his dairy route to send back to those in need in Old Country.

Some of the donations were too worn to be included in the care packages. Matt’s wife Anna asked him to build her a loom so she could put the scraps to good use. Matt began work in 1944, and finished in 1945. Anna wove rugs on this loom for the rest of her life.

Eventually the farm, and the loom, passed on to Anna and Matt’s only child, Johanna Pohjala. Johanna became a celebrated weaver herself, who wove and sold enough rugs to finance three trips to Finland! When the heavy overhead beater became too difficult for her to handle, her husband reconfigured it for her.

The loom was inherited by her daughter Christine Simonen, who donated it to the museum. Christine also donated a large warp chain prepared by Johanna before her death.

Johanna’s warp being wound onto the loom by Robyn and two other museum volunteers.
Weaving in process.
Completed rug.
Here’s another rug Robyn wove on the same warp. What a difference weft choices make!

Robyn and other museum volunteers keep all sorts of textile traditions alive. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum.

And to gain more insight into the social history of Finnish rag weaving, check out The Weaver’s Revenge: A Chloe Ellefson Mystery!

Hanka Homestead Tour – Save The Date!

April 8, 2021

Would you like to explore the historic site featured in my 11th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, The Weaver’s Revenge? I’m delighted to announce a special event for readers!

I invite you to join me on Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the Hanka Homestead Finnish Museum in Pelkie, Michigan.

You’ll enjoy a view of the site from Chloe’s perspective. I look forward to showing you where the action took place, and chatting about how the story developed.

Plotting murder and mayhem on one of my research trips.

My special guest will be Alan Pape, who launched the monumental group effort to restore and preserve the abandoned Hanka buildings in the early 1980s. Alan served as restoration chief at Old World Wisconsin from 1971-1983, and has a special affinity for—and knowledge of—Finnish log structures. Hearing from Alan will be a rare treat!

Alan at work on one of the Hanka buildings, c. 1983.

And, experienced Hanka Homestead guides will be leading tours, telling stories about Finnish immigrants’ heritage and experiences, and showing you some special artifacts.

Oscar, one of the knowledgeable volunteers.

This event will be free. (Donations to the Homestead will be greatly appreciated.)

I’ll have more details later, but I wanted to give you a chance to plan ahead. The site is in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, with limited accommodations in the vicinity.

(Covid note: I’m proceeding with the expectation that conditions will be much better in August, but of course will keep an eye on the situation.)

Come see for yourself why I found the Hanka Homestead so inspiring!