“All lovers of old photographs are familiar with unknown people, unknown families and unknown places, we all have them in our collection, and Sepia Saturday 165 provides an opportunity to give them their moment in the limelight, not because of who they are but because of who they may be.”
Among my old family albums there is one with lots of unknown faces and places in it. I think it probably belonged to my grandmother’s half-sister Gerda – one of the “cast” in this blog. There are some photos of her in that album, and some of family members I recognize; but also many people I don’t know at at all.
The first photo is the very first one in the “unknown” album. I think the woman in the middle may be Gerda herself. Further on in the same album I found the other photo from the same room. Different occasion. Three people seem to be the same. Two are different. No Gerda.
It’s looks like a rather stylish house, doesn’t it, with that ornamented fireplace?
I’m thinking maybe a family she worked for… And kept in touch with afterwards??
To sum up what I know about Gerda so far:
She emigrated to America in 1902 (at age 21), worked as a servant at a few different addresses in Chicago for about 10 years (one of those positions was in the household of a rather prominent man in Chicago, dr Otto L. Schmidt – she is registred as servant in his house in the 1910 US population census). Around 1913 (age 32) she was back in Sweden, at least for a visit. But she continued to travel in Europe during the first world war and in the 1920’s. From a relative I learned that she worked as lady’s maid/travel companion to rich English ladies.
In the 1930’s and onwards (age 50+), she was housekeeper to the family of Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte (of the royal family) and his American wife Estelle Manville-Bernadotte. Folke and Estelle got married in 1928, and made their home in Stockholm. (Possibly Gerda worked for Estelle or the Manville family even before the marriage. Among old photos there is also a press cutting of a photo from the wedding, cut from an American magazine.)
Folke Bernadotte was tragically assassinated in 1948 in Jerusalem. Gerda (then 67) remained with Estelle Bernadotte, I think for the rest of her (Gerda’s) life – which was a long one, as she lived to be nearly 92. Estelle eventually married again, but that was not until the same year Gerda died, 1973 (and Estelle herself was 69).
What do you think? Is the woman in the middle the same as young Gerda to the left, and old Gerda to the right?
The photo to the right shows Gerda wearing a royal medal. When did she get it? I’m guessing in connection with her 75th birthday, 1956. And/or 25 or 30 years of service to a royal(ly connected) family. Mid/late 50s anyway, as she’s sitting in my grandfather’s chair which got for his 50th birthday in 1954. And it was he who took that photo.
I’ve not been able to find any list of old medals on the internet, only more recent ones given to famous people. Gerda, in spite of the medal, belongs to the Unknown.