Astoria, Clatsop County, Oregon
With the westward migration of immigrant groups, Astoria, Oregon, became home to the largest Finnish settlement west of the Mississippi River (Hummasti, 3). With this Finnish population came Toveri (Daily Comrade) [LCCN: sn96088005], published by the Western Workman’s Cooperative Publishing Company. The newspaper spread socialist doctrines and news. When women’s rights came to the fore, the Finnish women in Astoria persuaded Toveri’s stockholders to print a newspaper just for them. The stockholders agreed, if the women could collect at least 3,000 subscriptions (Hummasti, 50). The women succeeded. Toveritar (Woman Comrade) [LCCN: 2011260133] made its debut in 1911. The Western Workman’s Cooperative Publishing Co. published this newspaper as well.
Toveritar was a weekly newspaper, published every Tuesday, primarily in Finnish. However, every once in a while, the newspaper published an article in English. Each issue of Toveritar featured the newspaper’s tagline in both Finnish and English: “Amerika suomalaisten työläisnaisten äären-kannattaja”/“Organ of the Finnish Working Women in America.”
Initially, Toveritar had an eight-page spread with four columns. Eventually, it grew to a 12-page spread. The newspaper started with a $1 yearly subscription and a $0.60 per-issue price in the United States. (In Canada, a yearly subscription was $1.25, and the cost per issue was $0.75.) At the time of the paper’s discontinuation in 1930, the cost for a yearly subscription had risen to $2.00, and the per-issue price had reached $1.15 in the United States. (In Canada, the yearly subscription rate peaked at $2.25 and the per-issue price at $1.25.)
Toveritar saw several notable editors, starting with Ida Pasanen. She was a major activist in a socialist organization based in Two Harbors, Minnesota, and is known to have said, “Our battle against the forces of oppression begins in the ranks of socialism. But let us also demand that there be consistency in those ranks. When we women use the words ‘equal responsibility,’ let us hasten to add ‘equal rights.’” Pasanen helped start several socialist organizations and societies. She also toured the country delivering lectures on socialist theology. She wrote for several socialist papers, including Työmies (The Workingman) [LCCN: sn83045425], one of the nation’s earliest Finnish socialist publications.
In 1915, Toveritar switched hands to Selma Jokela-McCone, who created a true women’s newspaper by publishing “what the women wanted—household helps of various kinds” (Ross, 127). Under Jokela-McCone, Toveritar had an all-female staff. In 1917, Maiju Nurmi became editor, and she led the newspaper through World War I. Nurmi had previous newspaper experience, having worked at Työmies. She focused on improvements in childcare and the status of working women. In 1920, Helmi Mattson became editor, leaving and returning later in 1926 until the newspaper’s closure in 1930. Besides being an editor, Mattson was also a talented writer, submitting poems, stories, and plays to the newspaper.
Since Toveritar was trying to attract even greater readership from among Finnish women, the newspaper began focusing on features that women could directly benefit from or relate to, such as “Nuorten Osasto” (“Youth Department”), “Kodin Osasto” (“Home Department”), and “Tehdasnaisten Osasto” (“Factory Women Department”). Additionally, the newspaper began to print more articles about Socialist theory than the news.
In 1929, Canadian authorities banned Toveritar, forcing its publishers to merge with a new paper, Työläisnainen (Working Women) [LCCN: not found] (Hummasti 288), which later became Naïsten Viiri (Women’s Banner) [LCCN: not found].
Prepared with reference to:
Hoerder, Dirk, and Christiane Harzig. The Immigrant Labor Press in North America, 1840s-1970s an Annotated Bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press, 1987.
Hummasti, Paul George. Finnish Radicals in Astoria, Oregon 1904-1940: A Study in Immigrant Socialism. Arno Press, New York, 1979.
Kaunonen, Gary. Challenge Accepted a Finnish Immigrant Response to Industrial America in Michigan's Copper Country. East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 2010.
Ross, Carl, and K. Marianne Wargelin Brown. Women Who Dared: The History of Finnish American Women. St. Paul, Minnesota: Immigration History Research Center, University of Minnesota, 1986.
Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.
- Written by Erin Choi