Ida Olsson (Hanson Malmquist) was born on a farm in Jämshög, Blekinge, Sweden on November 7, 1879. Her father was determined to immigrate to San Francisco with his wife and two children. Ida was 11 years old when they arrived in California in 1890. She attended Redding Primary School and later Denman Grammar School. Her father died when she was only 15, and to help out with expenses, she was apprenticed to a dressmaker and ran errands for $3 per week. Ida learned the trade but it was not to her liking and decided to seek other options. She took some courses at a business school and soon started working as a stenographer.
The adventurous spirit in her took Ida first to Seattle and later to Alaska during the gold strike in 1900. She soon returned to San Francisco and worked briefly at Vestkusten (the local Swedish paper) selling ads to Swedish businesses, mostly in the Bay Area and Kingsburg. She was there when the big quake and fire raged in 1906, after which she helped run a soup kitchen in an abandoned cable car and was instrumental in organizing an emergency Red Cross Hospital. Like most residents of the city, Ida lived in the park while some of the amenities of civilization were restored to the city.

Active in the Swedish community
She became very active in the Swedish community. Ida was the founder of the Freja Rebekka Lodge #284 on October 18, 1905, serving as their first Noble Grand until 1909. This was the distaff club of the Odd Fellows Order. They had rituals and special ceremonies associated with their meetings, and served as a safety net for members in time of need.
She made several trips during this time and eventually returned to Sweden in 1912. Ida, my aunt, was the inspiration for several other members of her family to come to America, including my father, his two brothers and two sisters. She served as the head of family for the rest of her days … we called her the “Queen Bee.”
San Francisco was chosen as the host city for the Panama Pacific Exposition to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. Ida was appointed as the head of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Swedish American World’s Fair Committee, the only female so honored. The group had about 250 members and was instrumental in all the entertainment and fund raising activities. The women served as docents at the Exposition in 1915, Ida managed to get children dressed in Swedish costumes for the parades and the exhibit was a smashing success.


Useful and beautiful
The Expo ladies were the nucleus for a new Swedish women’s club to be formed. The first meeting was held on March 17, 1916 and the organization was called Utile Dulci (useful as well as beautiful). Ida Olsson Hanson was elected president and served in that office for six years. Utile Dulci became a very prestigious club for women in San Francisco; their goal was to preserve Swedish culture in the area and assist visitors from Sweden and other notable people. When Ingrid Bergman came to this country she first appeared in a play in San Francisco. The Club held a tea in her honor and I remember meeting her at that time. They worked for the war effort in 1918 and in the 40s, and the club remained very active until the 70s when they had difficulty getting the leadership positions filled. They decided to disband in 1974 and for several years after held annual reunion luncheons. Ida was very active in the Swedish American Patriotic League and remained one of the most influential women of her day. She was often called upon to speak at meetings.

Ida married her first husband Edwin J. Hanson in 1913. He was an assistant District Attorney in San Francisco. Hanson died in 1925 when Ida was 46 years old. Her second marriage was to John Oscar Malmquist who was the superintendent of the American Can Company machine shop. In an industrial accident he lost part of one finger and liked to entertain us children with his finger disappearing into his nose. We were mesmerized. He was a charming man wearing spats and brandishing a cane. I always thought of him as my very special uncle. My Aunt Ida was also my godmother, who occupied a special place in my heart. In later life she took up oil painting, and I have a painting that she did of my father’s old farm in Sweden.
Ida was awarded three medals by the King of Sweden: The Vasa Order First Class in 1926 for her leadership in the 1915 Panama Pacific Expo; the Swedish Tercentenary Medal in 1938 in celebration of the early Swedish settlement in Delaware; and, the Pioneer Medal in 1948 for Swedish born Americans who came to this country and were instrumental in establishing and preserving Swedish culture here from 1848 to 1948. She was again awarded the Vasa Medal by the King in 1963.
Ida was the Queen Bee of our family in San Francisco and a very special person. She passed away in 1968 at the age of 89 and I am very proud of her many achievements.

Muriel Nelson Beroza