The Swedish Ladies Society of San Francisco is the oldest Swedish women's society in the west. The men's Swedish Society, formed in 1875, put forth the idea that their wives should have a separate organization modeled along the lines of the men’s group. The main purpose was to provide financial help and assistance during time of need, either from illness or bereavement.
A committee was established by the Swedish Society to formulate plans for the new women’s organization by July 24, 1896. The first president was Selma Söderberg Hanson. She was born in Stockholm in 1856 and was one of the first telephone operators in the city. She was an expert in Swedish folk art, sewing and dressmaking, and became a teacher at Östermalms Folk Arts. Selma came to America in 1890, where her activities centered around teaching. She was a very active member of the Swedish community in the Bay Area, serving as president of the Swedish Ladies for about seven years, fulfilling two separate terms in that office. The local Swedish women were very enthusiastic about this organization and from the initial membership of 96, the numbers increased to 105 charter members by year's end in 1896. The requirements for membership included a Swedish connection either by birth, marriage or descent. By 1900 there were about 150 members, reaching a peak of around 500 during the 1930s.

Fellowship and Swedish spirit
This society has provided good fellowship and a kindred Swedish spirit for all of its members. They have paid out thousands of dollars in sick benefits and funeral expenses, but the moral support provided by the members to each other is perhaps even more significant. These pioneer Swedish women sought to provide a safety net for their fellow countrymen. Now, only social memberships are available. The membership declined last year dwindling to only about 10 active members. The club has been held together by the devoted leadership of Jean Stohl Nelson and Yvonne Felch.
A group of about 20 new young women have recently joined, and the Swedish Ladies Club has been revitalized. The new president of the Ladies is Karin Van Horn, following in the footsteps of her mother Ann Marie Olsson Van Horn and her grandmother Greta Olsson. New goals are being researched to refresh the mission statement of the Ladies. They want to support the preservation of Swedish culture in this country and have already financially supported a project to digitize the oldest local Swedish newspaper Vestkusten and make it available on the Internet to all interested parties. They made a substantial donation for the new Club House porch in Sveadal.
It is a welcomed and exciting rebirth of the Swedish Ladies of the San Francisco Bay Area. Their annual Christmas Party has always been a social highlight to set off the Yuletide season. This year that event has already been planned and will be returning to the Olympic Club.


Muriel Nelson Beroza