Danish Sisterhood History
OUR FOUNDER: Christine Hemmingsen
Why not a “funeral benefit society” for women, she queried. And that question was the seed for the formation of the Danish Sisterhood of America.
Christine is remembered as a caring, compassionate, and courageous woman. Her home was open to friends and a mecca for old and young Danes seeking to adjust to the ways of the new world. Sorrows were shared, and joys multiplied by family fellowship. They cared. One day, after a brief illness, a young woman who was a friend of the Hemmingsen’s, died, leaving a bereaved husband and two children. The grief was even greater, as the financial burden of funeral expenses was realized. Christine’s kind heart reacted to their friends grief and problems – but she also acted. She was very much aware of fraternal organizations including the Danish Brotherhood, with “sick and death benefit” as their purpose. But they were for men. And so, motivated by compassion, caring, and concern, she took steps to formally organize Danish women into a funeral benefit society.
[Taken from “Origin of Danish Sisterhood of America and History of Christine Lodge #1” by Millicent Jensen, Member of Christine Lodge #1, April 1, 1983]
MILESTONES IN CHRISTINE HEMMINGSEN’S LIFE
- January 30, 1840 Born in Orup, Denmark – South of Copenhagen, Denmark
- November 5, 1861 Christine married Niels Hemmingsen in Roholte Church, Roholte, Denmark.
Four of their children were born in Denmark:
• February 2, 1863 Hans Christian
• February 11, 1865 Maria
• February 2, 1868 Lisbeth (Lisbeth died of whooping cough in March 1869)
• December 11, 1871 Jørgen
- August 1, 1873 Christine and Niels Hemmingsen and their 3 children immigrated to America. The Hemmingsen family arrived in New York on August 19, 1873. The family continued their travel to Negaunee, Michigan where they arrived on August 29. Negaunee, Michigan is where our founder settled with her family and on September 18 they started to build the house that became the place the Hemmingsen’s called home – a home far from home – but yet a home where a whole new chapter for the Hemmingsen’s began.
In America Christine and Niels had 4 more children:
• April 26, 1876 Jens Peter
• October 25, 1878 Christine gave birth to a stillborn daughter
• February 2, 1881 Albert
• August 24, 1884 Christine gave birth to a stillborn son
- December 1, 1883 Christine Hemmingsen established the Danish Sisterhood of America in her home in Negaunee, Michigan.
- August 24, 1884 Our Founder died while giving birth to a stillborn son in Negaunee, Michigan. She is buried at the Protestant Cemetery in Negaunee, Michigan.
- Her husband, Niels Hemmingsen became the first person to receive a funeral benefit from the Danish Sisterhood of America in the amount of $11.25.
- August 24, 1917 33 years after her death the Danish Sisterhood of America erected a monument on Christine Hemmingsen’s grave.
CHRISTINE HEMMINGSEN’S MONUMENT
Florence Henrikson, granddaughter of our Founder Christine Hemmingsen, vividly recalls the event:
Following the formal ceremonies at the Negaunee cemetery at which officers of the Supreme Lodge were present, a social and dance were held at the Scandinavian Hall in Negaunee. Toward the end of the evening, Axel Henrikson, a tall, curly haired son of a Danish couple active in both the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood, shyly approached Florence and asked her for a dance. Her secret wish for the evening was being fulfilled. Three years later, Axel and Florence became husband and wife. While death took the young husband just six short years later, the characteristic Danish loyalty and love for one’s spouse, have been cherished by his widow throughout the long and often time, lonely years.
[Pictured, from the Historical Archives, is the monument the Danish Sisterhood of America erected at the cemetery in memory of our Founder Christine Hemmingsen. The ceremony took place Friday August 24, 1917, 33 years after the passing of Christine. Two little girls uncovered the monument.]
GRANDDAUGHTER: Florence Henrikson
- Born October 11, 1893 in Negaunee, Michigan
- Died May 5, 1989 in Ishpeming, Michigan
- Daughter of Christine Hemmingsen’s oldest son, Hans Christian
I’ve enjoyed being involved with the Danish Sisterhood very much. – Florence Henrikson
Florence spent her early years in Negaunee, Michigan. She married Axel Henrikson, a diamond drill operator in 1918. The young couple left their home in Ishpeming shortly after their marriage, moving to Montana on a job assignment. Later, Axel was transferred to New York, where, at the age of 36 he died of peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix suffered while on the diamond drill field.
The young widow returned to Ishpeming to seek direction for her life and then enrolled at Clary College in Ypsilanti, majoring in business. Florence worked in the blueprint division of the King-Seeley Engineering Firm until her retirement in 1952 when she returned to her native Upper Peninsula, purchasing a home in Ishpeming.
Florence was proud of her Danish heritage and of the Sisterhood, which she claimed a sense of ownership as her grandmother, Christine Hemmingsen, founded the Sisterhood.
Florence was a gently lady, a faithful friend, a lovable aunt, wise and understanding. She possessed an inner calm, a zest for living (traveling extensively), a pride and a grace typical of Danish tradition.