Two Clubs of Distinction have passed from the scene: Utile Dulci of San Francisco & Swedish Cultural Society of Northern California
Utile Dulci, the women’s organization that formed after the Pan Pacific Exposition in 1916 and the Swedish Cultural Society of Northern California an East Bay organization formed in1949 were both devoted to the preservation of Swedish culture. After many years of active participation in the Swedish community in the San Francisco Bay area they have now passed into history.
A committee of 250 Swedish women was formed in 1912 to help create a Swedish exhibit at the Expo in 1916 in San Francisco. The committee was chaired by Ida Olsson Hanson (Malmquist). The Expo was held to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal and San Francisco was the chosen site. Sweden decided to participate and money was raised locally to help with the expenses. They were remarkably successful in their endeavors to present an attractive display of Swedish culture. Their collective devotion for things Swedish was remarkable. Ida Olsson Hanson engendered great enthusiasm within this wonderful group of women to make the Swedish building appealing, educational and representative of the best of the Swedish nation. They worked diligently to make the Expo a success and apparently had a good time doing it. After the fair was over they decided that they should continue this ethnic and social activity. The Utile Dulci Club was formed by this group of women who participated in the successful presentation at the Expo.
On March 16, 1917, forty ladies met and drafted the goals of this new organization … to entertain Swedish American women of distinction visiting San Francisco, promote sociability and intellectual advancement, cooperate in patriotic activities and promote Swedish culture in the area. Ida Olsson Hanson served as president for 7 years. Ida Olsson was born in Jämshög, Blekinge in 1879 and immigrated here with her parents at the age of 11 in 1890. After an adventurous trip to Alaska during the gold rush she returned to San Francisco and worked briefly for the Swedish paper Vestkusten. She was the first Noble Grand of the Odd Fellows Women’s Club (#284) Freya Rebecca in 1905. She was a very active person in the Swedish colony and was often called upon to be the speaker at meetings. Her pet project was Utile Dulci … the Swedish equivalent of Nytta och Nöje.
Utile Dulci joined the City & County Federation of Women’s Clubs and were important participants in all of their activities. They also affiliated with the American Scandinavian Foundation. There was a junior organization for the younger women and an active choral group that gave concerts with both Swedish and other musical pieces featured. To read of their activities over the years is awesome. They entertained and feted Crown Princess Louise on her visit here in 1926, wives of political appointees at the consular and ambassadorial level, various opera stars, women of academia, and even movie starts like Ingrid Bergman during her first performance at a theater in San Francisco. They participated in a number of war assistance activities like selling of bonds and sewing and knitting items for the Red Cross. We must also complement the ladies in charge of recording their history, especially Jeanne Van Husen Warden for the wonderful job they did of detailing their enterprises. In 1974, the club disbanded for lack of volunteers to fill leadership positions. During the years following, a reunion luncheon was held at various locations with enthusiastic former members attending. This annual event continued until 2002 when the last luncheon was held under the leadership of Florence Hendrickson Gustafson. The records of this club are now housed in the Library and Archives at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco.
The Swedish Cultural Society of Northern California was formed in 1949 with Daniel Birgers as president. Birgers was a writer for Vestkusten and later editor of the Vasa Star. He remained in office for 5 years then followed by Marian Smith who served for an astonishing 25 years. One of the guiding inspirations of this organization was Valborg (Mama) Gravander, the legendary weaver in whose honor a scholarship was founded upon her passing. Another very influential pair of members was Bruce and Astri Feist. Astri was the daughter of Axel Gauffin, director of the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm. The club prided itself on keeping the Swedish holidays in full tradition. They donated books to the Scandinavian Department library at UC Berkeley, published a book on weaving and a cookbook on Swedish dishes and traditions. At the closing of this club, Don and Ellen Morrison gave the records of the activities of the Cultural Society to the Archives Committee at the Swedish American Hall and also a gift of $500 from the Society.
Both of these organizations had different goals than the usual early Swedish clubs in the area. Their foremost activity was to preserve Swedish culture and art rather than supplying a safety net for members. They participated in all of the Swedish American Patriotic League activities over the years. The Archives committee at the Swedish American Hall is very grateful for their contribution and thankful for their support in preserving a record of the proceedings of the Swedish people in the Bay Area.