An ocean steamer of European immigrants passing the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.

Project: Women on their own to America and back again

The focus of the project is the experiences of single women who emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century and later returned to Sweden. The study is carried out through analyses of interviews with female migrants that were recorded between 1977 and 1980.

Project information

Project manager
Marie Bennedahl
Participating organizations
Linnaeus University, Växjö Municipality, The Swedish Emigrant Institute
Växjö Municipality, Linnaeus University
1 June-30 November 2021
History (Department of Cultural Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Humanities)

More about the project

1,3 million people emigrated from Sweden to the United States between 1830 and the 1930 and about 200 000 of them returned to Sweden. About half of the emigrants were women and in the later years most of them were young and single.

Migration research shows that the emigrants often hoped to return to Sweden after some time raising money in the United States. This research is mostly centred on men and the male emigrants’ experiences and goals.

The project is adding a female emigrant perspective not only on the emigration to the United States, but also on the remigration to Sweden. The study examines interviews with emigrants that were carried out in Sweden between 1977 and 1980 by the Swedish Emigrant Institute. The women emigrated in the early 20th century and some of them only returned 50 years later. The focus of this project is the qualitative and emotional aspects of the migration and remigration process.

The women migrated during a time when the female emancipation movement grew and changed the position of women in society. This inevitably affected the women in the study, as they were a part of the change, whether they were aware of it or not. In the interview’s feelings related to the aspects of community, belonging and identity will be analysed, revealing the connection between the migration process and female emancipation. Whilst a career might be something described as positive in relation to other female migrants, it might be more problematic in relation to the family back in Sweden.

The purpose of the project is to highlight two aspects of the Swedish emigration to the United States: returning migrants and the experience of single women.


The project is part of:
Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies
Cluster for Colonial Connections and Comparisons