Henrika Peltonen

Alexandersgatan 36 - Henrika Peltonen

Henrika Peltonen

Casual labourer

(b. 1882 - d. 1964)

The railway came to Kaskinen in 1913, and with it came many people from the mainland. From the beginning, the population of Kaskinen were mostly Swedish-speaking, but the rails brought many Finnish-speaking people to Kaskinen. One of these was Henrika Peltonen (born Pitkänen, in Kontiolahti), with her husband Bernard, who worked with the railway. The couple had five children.

The arrival of the railway and the development of the port created more jobs here in the timber industry. Finnish-speaking people came to work in the harbour, sawmills, and lumberyards. Many of the workers were from nearby villages and returned home for the winter. But the structure of the population began to change, and by the 1920s there were already quite a few Finnish-speaking families permanently living in Kaskinen. Many of Kaskinen's fishermen worked seasonally side by side with the Finnish-speaking workers to earn their daily bread.

The work in the harbour consisted of unloading timber from rail cars and loading and stowing the ships. In the lumberyards, it was mostly men's work, but at the sawmills and in the loading work there were both men and women. In the 1930s, Peltonen was one of these workers. She was left a widow and had to provide for her five children.

The depression in the 1930s hit Kaskinen hard. Fewer ships arrived, and there was not enough work. The workers' fate was now in the hands of the foremen. They decided who would have work for the day, and often the women were sent home.

Many families had to take out bank loans to survive the winter. Sometimes women would get work with the town, sweeping streets. Other women picked berries in the forest and sold them to the wealthier people of Kaskinen.

Children whose parents worked at the sawmill could collect small pieces of leftover wood there to use as firewood at home. There were not many trees growing on the island, and money to buy firewood was limited.

Peltonen hurt her back while working in the harbour: a pile of timber fell on her. After this, she stopped working in the harbour. She began helping people with their laundry instead.

She was also very active in the workers' association of Kaskinen. She was known as a good coffee-preparer at their parties and was a member of the social democratic sewing association.