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The Widows at Fiskars Ironworks

Hard-working and skilled smiths could receive a reward from a fund which was started by the decision of the 1828 district court. At the same time a decision was made that there should be a fund for smiths. The fund paid compensation to the sick and the “old and paralysed smiths”, and in addition, their widows received aid. The pension of former workers consisted of 1½-2 ½ barrels of rye, fodder for animals, a room and firewood. The workers’ widows also received a small compensation, but it was not enough to live on, and in practice they had to do small jobs to earn their living. In the 20th century, all the way until the 1950’s, the widows got a room, firewood and lighting. In 1958, the Fiskars board of directors decided that retired workers and widows could no longer live in the company’s flats for longer than three months after their retirement or the death of their husbands. Those who had retired or become widows before 1958 were an exception.

The widow´s flat at Fiskars museum

There were small flats in the attic of Slaggbyggnaden where one group of inhabitants were the widows. One of those flats is now decorated to look like how it could have looked when a widow of the 1940’s lived there. It is modestly furnished, but there is one modern object in the room, a predecessor of the refrigerator, a cabinet filled with ice and meant for the storage of food.

One woman who was allowed to continue to live at the ironworks after the death of her husband, was Selma Mannström (1875-1952). Selma’s husband Johan Artur worked at the rolling mill, and the couple had two sons and five daughters. Johan Artur died of tuberculosis in 1923, and Selma was left alone with the two sons who still lived home. After the death of Johan Artur, Selma got work at the cutlery mill, where some other women also worked. After the children left home, the widows usually had to move into smaller flats. Selma lived in this 11 square metre flat until her death in 1952.

In January 1968, the last widow moved from the room that is now the Widow’s Flat at the Fiskars Museum.

Sources and literature:

Fiskars Museums 50 års jubileumsskrift. (1999)
Matvejev, Irina: Fiskars vår hembygd. (1949)
Nikander, Gabriel: Fiskars bruks historia 1630-1924. (1929)

Unpublished sources:
Mantalslängder för Fiskars bruk, Pojo lokalhistoriska arkiv
Protokoll fört vid Oy Fiskars Ab:s styrelsemöte 29.6.1955. PLA, Fiskars bolags historiska arkiv