grandmother, Mathilda Kinnunen, came through Ellis Island
from Finland in the early part of this century. Her ambition
was to earn enough money to buy a bicycle and return to her
her arrival at Ellis Island, her sponsor didn't show up, so
she was detained overnight. Bewildered, she went to the front
of the holding cell the next morning, and was soon spotted
by a housekeeper from Manhattan. The housekeeper came up to
my grandmother at the cell, looked in her face, and asked
her in Finnish (many housekeepers to the very wealthy back
then were Finnish) if she wanted a job.
grandmother wanted very much to get out of that cell on Ellis
Island, and was eager to work, so she said yes. The housekeeper
told her, "follow my lead." The housekeeper signed for my
grandmother, and took her to a brownstone in Greenwich Village.
The master of the house was throwing a huge party that night,
and the servant staff was short of help.
turns out that the master of the house was one of the most
famous silent-film producers of the time, and his party was
for a select gathering of silver screen stars! That night,
her second in America, was spent serving at that party. My
grandmother watched behind the thick velour drapes, watching
all these famous people she had heard about and even seen
in Finland in silent movies!
great she thought America was!
grandmother went on to become a housekeeper at several prominent
homes in Manhattan and Brooklyn, where she eventually married
and raised her family. Today, she's buried in famous Greenwood
Cemetery in Brooklyn, and at her funeral, all of the people
for whom she had worked (who were still alive themselves)
attended. As for the house where she got her start, it is
still in Greenwich Village, on 10th Street, I believe, and
is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because
of the movie producer who used to live there.
in New York!