Finnish Families

Figure 1.--The photo shows the Sievan Family in 1917. It was taken on their small farm near Helsinki. Notice how they vare proudly vshowing off the family cow. The children's bare feet and not very stylish clothing probably suggests poverty to the modern reader. This family, however, was probably a reasonably prosperous farm family. Note that at the beginning of 1917, Finland was still part of the Russian Empire, but because of the Russian Revolution and World War I was able to break away a achieve its independence.

While Finland became independent after World War I (1914-18), major social change did not become apparent until after World War II (1939-45). Finnish families before World War II tended to be large and commonly included elderly grandparents and sometimes other relatives as well. The country was still largely rural. People lived in the countryside and often had large houses, commonly farmhouses. As in other countries, it made economic sence for farm families to be large. Gender was an important matter. A boy was needed to take over the family farm. There was lots to do on a farm of any size. This is the general pattern around the world. The more prosperous farmers alsh had paid help. The population pattern tended to be pyrameducal with many children and a few elderly people, the basdic pattern of rural developing countries. [Notkola, p. 276.] This began to change after World War II as Finland began to industrialize and the population became more urbanized. Urban families tended to be smaller than farm families. Large families no longer made economic sense. Finland suffered heavily during the War. It fought two wars with the Soviets and at the end had tio fight the Germans as well. Losses of military-age men meant affected both family structure and family formation. There were mamy single-parent families headed by widows. This mean that fewer mothers could stay at hime Grandparents were more commonly cared for in old-age home homes rather than family homes. We have begun to collect some information on Finnish families so these developments can be observed. The family segment of HBC provides a wealth of date about Finnish society, The family images for various decades provide interesting information about family life and social trends as well as the clothing and hair style fashions. They also provide insights as to the fashions worn by other members over time. It is interesting to see what adult and girl fashions were associated with the various styles that boys wore over time. We are collecting information on families from different regions as well as various demographic segments to provide a complete view of Finninsh society over time.

The 19th Century

We have not yet been able to find any images of Finnish families during the 19th century. Finland at the toime was [paryt of ther Tsarist Empire.

The 20th Century

Finland began the 20th century as part of the Russian Empire. It was a largely rural area of the Russian Empire with most of the population living on family farms. Finland was more prosperous than the Russian hearland, but images at the turn-of-the century are quite similar to Russia. This gradyally changed after iundependence. At the end of World I, the country gained its independence (1918). The population continued to be largely rural nduring the inter-War period. The images show a relatively healthy, well-fed looking population, although not with a lot of consumer goods like fashionable clothes. Finland was an early target of Soviet aggression in World war II. Finns suffered greatly in the Winter War (1939-40), but the outcome unlike the Baltics was that the Finns were not dragged into the Soviet Empire. Finland changed fundamentally after World War II and this inevitably affected family life and structure. The country rapidly industrialized, benefitting from the rapid economic recovery of Western Europe creating markets for Finnish exports. Finland developed one of the vhigh income economies of Western Europe. All this was in sharp contrast to developments across the border in the Soviet Union.

The 1910s

Uoti Family (1910)

This Finnish family portrait was taken in 1910. They are the family of a pastor taken in front of his vicarage. The church was located in Piikkiö, western Finland. In the back row, left to right, we can see: the church organist Salmela, the family servant Edla, Mrs. Elina Kupila (that had some charge in the congregation), the Pastor's wife Augusta Laurilan, and the Pastor Juho Uoti. The ladies' hars seem to be a sratus symbol. The servant does not have one. In the front row: the organist's daughther Oiva Lahja, and the five children of the Pastor: Arvo Insar, Jalo Aarre, Kauko Johannes and Ensio Ilmari. The children look to be about 3-13 years old. The boys wear blouses and knee pants with hisiery and shoes. The older boy wears a sailor suit. The todler boy is dressed differently, wearing a tunic outfit. We are not sure why. Perhaps it is more protective such as warmer clothes and shoes. But we see other family images with toddlers dressed more like the older boys here. The girl here wears shoes, but Finnish girls also wnt barefoot like the boys. We think it was somewhat more common for girls to wear shoes when dressing up.

Koivunen family (1913)

This photo was taken in 1913. It shows Aatto Koivunen with his wife and their children. They had four children, sons were Martin and Reino and their twin daughters Asta and Martha. The girls are wearing traditional clothing and all the children are barefoot. They lived in a small town. The father had a difficult youth, but built a prosperous inslation business. You can see their comfortable house in the backgrond. He and his wife were deeply involved in the workers movement. They thought they were on the cusp of building a wonderful new world. They had no idea what the Blosheviks they suppoted would do to Russian and neighboring countries. Koivunen became a Finnish Red Guard commander during the Finnish Civil War (1918).

Sievan Family (1917)

The photo here shows the Sievan Family in 1917 (figure 1). It was taken on their small farm near Helsinki. Notice how they vare proudly vshowing off the family cow. The children's bare feet and not very stylish clothing probably suggests poverty to the modern reader. This family, however, was probably a reasonably prosperous farm family. The photographwas taken during World War I, but the fighting had not reached Finland. Note that at the beginning of 1917, Finland was still part of the Russian Empire, but because of the Russian Revolution and World War I was able to break away a achieve its independence. This was enormously important for families like the Sievans. They are just the kind of family that Stalin labeled kulaks and that the NKVD drove off their land, in many cases in the snow. The Ukranians were unble to resist. The Finns did resist in the Winter War (1939-40) to preserve their independence.

The 1920s

Finland became iundependent at the end of World War I and the beginning of the Russian Revolution (1917). Thus we see Finnish children moving away from Russian fashions and more toward Scandinavian and German fashions. We no longer see Russian peasant tunics as were common in the early-20th centuyry. We see quite a few boys wearing sailor suits especially when dressing up. We also see boys wearing long short pants held up by suspenders. The styles are very similar to Germany abnd Scabdinavia except that Finland adfter several centuries of Russian rule was not as prosperous. The country was still quite rural and many available images show farm families. Thus the children are often not dresses very fashionably. Many children are barefoot.

The 1930s

Jokinen Children (Early-1930s)

We note the five Finnish siblings--the Jokinen children. They were the children of Väinö and Hilma Jokinen. They live near Keuruu, a town about 270 km north of Helsinki. The photo is undated, but looks like the early 30s. Notice the birch trees in the background, very common in northern forests.

Kupiaisen Family (1930)

The Kupiaisen family lived in Karelia. This was the province of Finland just north of Leningrad. Note the tunic that one boy is wearing. The younger boy is wearing a play pinafore similar to those commonly worn in Germany. The Kupiaisens had their photo taken in 1930 with their bicycle. We suspect that it was their proudest possession. This looks like a portrat made by an intenerate photographer. The Soviets invaded Filmand and seized most of Karelia in the World War II Winter War (1939-40). Virtually the entire population of Karelia left their homes and farms rather than live under Soviet rule. At a time that many American leftists were lionizing Stalin and the triumphs of Socialism, the Finns were under no illusion about the nature of Soviet rule.

Harja Family (1930s)

We see a Harja family gathering during the 1930s. The photo was taken in Southern Ostrobothnia region of Finland. The two boys are wearing clothing made with the same cloth. The older one has a suit that he is wearing with black shoes and long stockings. The younger brother has a sailor suit that he wears in his bare feet. The girls wear dresses.

The 1940s

Unidentified Family (1940s)

This Finnish family is unidentified. They lived in the small village of Vehkaoja, we tink in the 1940s. during 1940s. One boy wears knickers, the other seems to be wearing very long short pants with suspenders. Both boys are barefoot. The boys look to be about 6-8 years old. Tey seem to have different ideas aboutbeing photographed. Their big sister weairs a prit dress. She looks to be about 11 years old. She wears what look like sandals, probably because she is a little older.

The 1950s

Matila Family (1955)

This family snapshot shows Anni and Erkki Matila with their 10 children in front of their house. The photo was taken in the village of Oijärven during 1955. There are three girls and seven boys. The boys mostly wear "T"shirts. The older boys (and the father) have these rugby-style (collar shirts that are partially open at the front) shirts. Rather than Brirish rugby shirts with stripes and buttons, thedse are solid colored shirts which have string ties. The boys at the front have short pants, the yougest has H-bar shorts. The boys at the back wear both short and long pants, but we can't tell which ones. All the girls wear dresses, ome with a pinafore. They look to be a farm family. Here we can begin to see the fashion difference between rural and urban families disappearing.

Huusko Family (late-1950s)

The Huusko family lived in in southern Finland. We can't tell much bout the family. We would guess that they are a farm family, but we are not sure. Here the one boy going barefoot is a clue. The other boy seems to be wearing sneakers. Both boys wear long pants which were becoming more popular throughout Europe. Notice the birch tree, a tree almost synomamous with Finland. The snap shot is undated, but was probably taken in the late-1950s. Finland at ghe time was making enormous economic progress. This family looks much more prosperous than family photographs taken before World War II. And family photographs in subsequent decaded show a steadsily increasing prosperity.

The 1960s

The 21st Century

The 2000s

Unidentified Grandmother (2000s)

In Finland it is quite common to take off shoes entering in the house, as we can see in the photo showing a grandmother with her five grandchildren. The children are barefoot. Notice the shoes at the door. Grandmother wears socks. Notice the hard wood floors. The children all wear the same pan-European fashions now common throughout Europe.

Summer Vacation (2000s)

This family snapshot shows a Finnish family during the summer vacation in Nilsiä, a municipaqlity in Eastern Finland. Notice the casual styles the children are wearing, including the American baseball cap. It used to be possible to identify where children were from by their clothes. Childrenm in the 21st century essentuially dressed alike throughout Europe, a kind of pan-European fashion that began toi develp in the 1980s.

The 2010s


Notkola, Veijo and Markku Ryynänen. "Suomen väestö: Väestönkehityksen ennustaminen ja tuleva väestönkehitys Suomessa sekä eräissä Euroopan maissa." Ed. Seppo Koskinen, Tuija Martelin et. al. (Hämeenlinna: Karisto Oy, 1994).


Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[The 1880s] [The 1890s]
[The 1900s] [The 1910s] [The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s]
[The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]

Related Style Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Long pants suits] [Knicker suits] [Short pants suits] [Socks] [Eton suits] [Jacket and trousers]
[Blazer] [School sandals] [School smocks] [Sailor suits] [Pinafores] [Long stockings]

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Created: 7:29 PM 9/14/2009
Last updated: 6:31 PM 4/12/2014