Finnish migrants in Minnesota, USA

The population in Finland grew rapidly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Means of subsistence and circumstances of the rural workers worsened. One opportunity to try to improve circumstances was to migrate. It was counted that altogether c. 280 000 persons migrated to non-European countries, in practice to USA and Canada, during 1881-1914. However, c. 100 000 came back.

Public entertainment in the house of Mäntsälä Workers’ Association

Public entertainment events have been popular meetings and important to the economy of the workers’ associations. The programme usually consisted of a labour-spirited speech, recitation, “serious” music or a play and 1 ½ hours of dancing in the end. The change in leisure-time activities has later on put an end to these kind of entertainments almost entirely.

Constitutive meeting of the Woodworkers’ Union

The first national trade union in Finland was founded by bookworkers in 1894. Socialist ideas were little by little spread among the labour movement and proletarian radicalism was strengthened especially in bigger towns. At the turn of the century for instance bookworkers, tailors, joiners, masons, metal workers, carpenters and painters had held national meetings and established trade unions.

Constitutive meeting of the Finnish Labour Party

The Finnish Labour Party was established in Turku in July 17 through 20 under socialists’ lead and bourgeois people withdrew. In 1903 the party adopted a socialist programme and was re-named the Finnish Social Democratic Party. In the foreground sitting on an arm-chair is the chairman of the Swedish Social Democratic Labour Party, the chief editor of the newspaper “Social-Demokraten” Hjalmar Branting. Behind the table sits the chairman of the meeting and the first chairman of the Finnish party N. R.

Labour demonstration

October 15th 1998 saw the largest joint trade union action ever in Norway, when 1,2 million members all over the country participated in a two hours' demonstration against the non-labour government's plan to reduce the holidays and change the rules for sickness benefit. In Oslo thousands of people gathered outside the Parliament building, where the leader of The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (Landsorganisasjonen), Yngve Hågensen, was among the speakers.

May 1 demonstration, Oslo

From the May Day demonstration in Oslo in 1970. Young members of the new militant party, AKP m-l (Workers' communist party, m-l) are carrying anti-capitalistic slogans and portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin and other communist leaders. The wave of radicalisation among students and other young people also spread to the trade unions during the 1970's. In its wake followed a series of so-called wild-cat strikes all over the country.

Torchlight parade during election campaign

In 1935 an agreement between the Labour Party and the Agrarian Party made the formation of a labour government possible. Before the election of 1936 a huge propaganda apparatus was launched with the aim to secure an absolute majority for the party in parliament. Even if the election was a large victory for the party, the main goal was not reached. The building in the background is the Folketeater (The people's teatre) building on Youngstorget in Oslo, built in 1933 as a centre for cultural activities in the labour movement.

A school for Lapp children

Lapp children outside their school in Sandnes, Sør-Varanger, 1901. Up to the last war, a majority of these schools aimed to Norwegianize the children, and Lappish language and culture were suppressed. The photographer is Ellisif Wessel, who together with her husband, doctor Andreas Wessel, were pioneers in the labour movement in Finnmark, the northernmost county in Norway. Besides being a competent photographer, Ellisif Wessel was an industrious contributor to the labour press. She also wrote two collections of poems and one children's book and published for a time her own periodical.

Match workers on strike

In Norway as in many other countries, 1889 was a year of strikes and other labour conflicts. The most famous conflict was the match workers' strike in Kristiania (Oslo). Here women and child workers went to strike for better wages and working conditions. The most important result of the strike was that it awakened the social conscience of the middle and upper classes. The prominent author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was among those who sided with the match workers and brought the public's attention to their horrible working conditions.