Selma Erickson

Selma Erickson

Selma Erickson was born in Grangesburg, in the Dalarna region of Sweden in 1887. At seventeen she emigrated to the United States a settled in Ishpeming, Michigan.

Erickson met and married Herman Seaborg, a mechanic who worked in Ishpeming. In 1912 their son, Glenn Seaborg was born. He worked his way through college as a stevedore, fruit-packer and laboratory assistant. Seaborg became professor at the University of California in 1945 and six years later was awarded the Nobel prize for his discovery of plutonium and his research into transuranic elements.

Primary Sources

(1) Glenn Seaborg wrote about his mother in his autobiography, Life of Glen Seaborg (1982).

I was born on April 19, 1912 in Ishpeming, Michigan, a small iron mining town in the Upper Peninsula. Both of my parents were Swedish. My mother, Selma Olivia Erickson, was born in Grängesberg, in the southern Dalarna region of Sweden and came to the United States (Ishpeming) in 1904, when she was seventeen years old. Her ancestors, Michael Hindersson and his wife, whose maiden name was Maria van Gent, lived in 1673 (as shown by an inscription on the living room wall) was moved in 1895 from Kopparberg to Skansen, where it stands with the name "Laxbrostugan" as part of the representative houses from "Bergslagen."

Ishpeming had typical sections that were nearly all Swedish and it was in one of these that we lived. Since my father was fluent in Swedish and this was my mother's native tongue, the Swedish language was spoken in my home as it was throughout this community. I learned to speak and understand Swedish before I did English, but I am afraid that in the intervening years my facility with the language has declined.

Swedish customs of all kinds prevailed in our home. I remember particularly well the Swedish food that we enjoyed at our dinner on Julaften, or Christmas Eve. The fare usually included smörgåsbord, which featured sil, or pickled herring. One of the mainstays was lutfisk, which was always served with boiled potatoes and a white sauce. Another feature always was saffron buns and bread, usually served hot and made with glacéd fruits. This was part of a large spread of buns and cakes including gingersnaps made in the form of goblins, piglets, stars and other patterns. Another component which was almost always present was the Swedish lingonberries, which I still like so much. The meal was usually topped off with risgryn, or rice pudding, which was topped with cinnamon and cream and sugar. Even in the later years my mother carried on these traditions.

I attended the Ishpeming public schools until I was ten years old and starting the fifth grade. Then my family, which included my younger sister Jeanette, moved to Home Gardens, now a part of South Gate, California (near Los Angeles). This move was made largely at the urging of my mother, who wanted to extend the horizon for her children beyond the limit of opportunities available in Ishpeming.