Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area

Synopsis

Where else can that well-known phrase be better applied than to a study of the Finns in Sudbury? "Rock" defines the physical reality of the Sudbury setting: rugged hills, mines, farms and forests set in the Precambrian Shield. "Hard" defines the human setting: Finnish immigrants having to contend with the problems and stresses of relocating to a new culture, with livelihoods that required great endurance as well as a tolerance for hazardous conditions.

Since 1883 Finnish immigrants in Sudbury, men and women alike, have striven to improve their lot through the options available to them. Despite great obstacles, the Finns never flagged in their unwavering fight for workers' rights and the union movement. And as agricultural settlers, labour reformers, builders of churches, halls, saunas and athletic fields, Finns left an indelible imprint on the physical and human landscape. In the process they have played an integral part in the transformation of Sudbury from a small struggling rail town to its present role as regional capital of northwestern Ontario.

This penetrating study of the cultural geography of the Finns in the Sudbury region provides an international, national and local framework for analysis -- a model for future studies of other cultural groups.

Excerpt

Why write a book on the Finns of the Sudbury area? There are several reasons. First, the story simply deserves to be told. Since 1883 Finns have played an integral part in the transformation of the Sudbury area from a rail town to its present-day role as the regional capital of northeastern Ontario. in a variety of ways, as pioneering agricultural settlers, labour reformers, hardworking citizens, builders of churches, halls, saunas and athletic fields, Finns left an indelible imprint on the physical and human landscape. Throughout the first half-century of Finnish settlement in Canada “there was no other locality … where the Finns had held such a pivotal role in history as in the community of Sudbury.” in like fashion, Jim Ashcroft, former Ontario Division president of Inco, has remarked that ‘’the story of the Finns in Sudbury is a noble and uplifting chapter in our regional history.” Second, there is the question of “roots.” For myself and others of Finnish origin, the book is intended to serve as a path of discovery, leading not only to a greater appreciation of our heritage but also to an understanding of how “carry-over effects” from Finland and elsewhere were influenced by domestic factors in Canada and Northern Ontario. Third, the time is right. a century of the Finnish experience has passed— time enough for a thoughtful review of the historical record. the rapid aging of the Finns as an ethnic group makes it imperative that their past aims, aspirations and achievements be duly recorded for future generations. As one insightful observer once reminded me, “it is fine for you academics to deal with ethnic institutions, processes, patterns and all those sorts of things, but you must never forget that, in the final analysis, it all comes down to people.” the book is also intended as a celebration of the concept

Notes to the Introduction are on p. 279.

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