History Culture Textiles & Clothing
Wraps of Love: Shawls of Germans from Russia
Dr. Ann Braaten, Curator, Emily P. Reynolds Historic
Costume Collection, College of Human Development and Education,
North Dakota State University, Fargo
Emily P. Reynolds Historic Costume Collection Spring
May 19, 2006
North Dakota State University, Fargo
The Emily P. Reynolds Historic Costume Collection
is a repository of culture focusing on clothing, textiles and
related items. The collection is a primary source for historic,
cultural and design research.
The collection grew out of the efforts
of Emily P. Reynolds, a member of the textiles and clothing faculty
from 1948 to 1981. It has grown to include over 5,000 items that
record the fashions of the times, the people of NDSU, North Dakota
and the surrounding region, the Germans from Russia, and world
On May 19, 2006, the Emily Reynolds Historic Costume Collection
hosted a program presented by its curator, Ann W. Braaten. It was
entitled "Wraps of Love: Shawls of Germans from Russia Immigrants."
This immigrant group is made up of Germans who colonized Russia
from the late 1770s through the mid-1800s. Their hard work and industriousness
turned the Black Sea area of Russia into the breadbasket of Europe
by the late-1800s. Emigration from this area started in the 1870s
when the colonists' privileges were revoked. Many German Colonists
moved to other parts of the world, including the Great Plains of
North America, where they were called Germans from Russia.
German from Russia women's shawls were an integral part of their
lives. The shawls helped women in caring for their children, in
practicing their religion, and in providing comfort for themselves
and their families. At the NDSU Libraries, the Germans from Russia
Heritage Collection has collected shawls which are housed in the
Emily Reynolds Historic Costume Collection. Ten shawls from this
ethnic group were highlighted in the program and are shown in
the photographs below. You will also see a few shawls worn by
other groups because shawls were part of women's fashion during
the 1800s and early 1900s. In addition, audience members bought
shawls from their personal collection and shared their stories.
They are also shown below.
Ann Braaten, assistant professor of the Department of Apparel,
Design, Facility and Hospitality Management and curator of
the Emily P. Reynolds Historic Costume Collection, stands
near a display of German from Russia black worsted wool shawls.
Conservative rural women wore shawls of this type as head
coverings in North Dakota through the 1950s.
Four black worsted wool shawls would have been wrapped over
the shoulders of German from Russia women. At the front, a
Russian block printed floral shawl lies on the table. These
were worn by Gemans from Russia as well as Russians and can
still be purchased in Russia today. A delicate hand-knitted
pink knitted silk shawl, worn by the Haggart family in Fargo
in the late 1800s, lies folded in the center. A paisley shawl,
popular in Europe and in the U.S. during the mid-1800s lies
on the table to the right.
Brightly colored wool shawls were a recognizable aspect of
Bessarabian German from Russia women's dress when they first
arrived in the Dakotas in the 1880s. The hand-made shawls
identified the women as Germans from Russia. Ruth Rasch donated
the folded striped shawl to the Germans from Russia Heritage
Collection, NDSU. It was made by Luisa (Kohls) Kruckenberg
in Alt Arzis, Bessarabia for her son Friedrich before he moved
to America in 1904. Karoline (nee Zahl) Bader made the center
plaid shawl in 1894. She passed it to her daughter Ottelia
(Bader) Pahl and then to Elsie (Pahl) Gebhardt. Salome (Sommerfeld)
Unrath made the striped shawl on the right in 1908. It was
passed to her daughter Vi Scheilke.
Factory made shawls were included in German from Russia's
women's wardrobes during the time of immigration. This type
was more widely worn by women in Russia, Europe and the United
States, as they were sold through catalog retailers. Plaid
shawls and woven shawls with floral borders were common to
Germans from Russia women from throughout the German Colonies
in South Russia. Theresa Mack Wald donated the plaid shawl
on the left. It dates from 1914 and was brought from the Kutschurgan
Colonies of South Russia by Katherina (Deringer) Mack. Christina
(Ziegenhagel) Gruzzie wore the center shawl on her trans-Atlantic
crossing in 1900. It was donated by Delores Ketterling Hanson.
Kristina (Wagner) Rieger Littke brought the shawl on the right
to the United States around 1908. She wore the shawl over
an over coat in the coldest part of winter. Kristina was originally
from a village near Odessa, Ukraine. Her daughter-in-law Amalie
(Schlittenhart) Rieger donated the shawl to NDSU's Germans
from Russia Heritage Collection.
Lila Hauge Stauffle and her mother Ruthie Poissant Breiland
(nee Reule) showed Lila's striped hand-woven wool shawl. Barbara
Zimmerman brought the shawl to North Dakota in 1911 when she
emigrated from Russia with her husband, Balthauser Zimmerman
and their six children.
Lila Hauge Stauffle is a professor and fiber artist at Minnesota
State University--Moorhead. She described the process she
used to make the hand-woven shawl which she is showing.
Elise (Keller) Gilbertson, NDAC graduate of 1956, Sara Sunderlin,
senior lecturer in the Department of Apparel, Design, Facility
and Hospitality Management and Lois (Cullen) Rotenberger,
NDAC graduate of 1956, hold up Elise Gilbertson's shawl. Elise
told the audience the meaning of shawls in her community.
Shawls were used as engagements gifts, given by men to women.
Common questions posed to a woman after she had been dating
a man for a while was "Did you get your shawl yet? Did
you get your shawl?"
Both brightly colored hand-made shawls and darker factory-made
shawls were part of German from Russia women's wardrobes in
the late 1800s and early 1900s. The hand-woven shawls shown
are particular to the area of Bessarabia, located south and
east of the Ukrainian city of Odessa along the Kolgaelnik
River Valley. Factory-made shawls were worn by women from
Bessarabia as well as by women living in other German Colonies
of South Russia. They were acquired in South Russia, but were
also sold through catalogue merchants in the United States.
(second from right, on photo #2006-7-11):
Elsie Pahl Gebhardt, donor of shawl.
Carolina Zahl Bader weaved this plaid “Plachta: in Paris, Bessarabia before 1898 when she immigrated to North Dakota. This bunte (bright-colored) karierte (plaid) Blachte/”Plachta”/Placht (paradise shawl) is a traditional folk German textile. This shawl originally was trimmed on two-hemmed-sides with greenish-black rayon/silk fringes (three inches of criss-cross “lattice” knotted lace with six-inch length fringe), which were removed from an older black worsted-woolen skopftuch/head shawl, according to Elsie’s youngest sister Dorothy Pahl Solheim.
This long fringe was added to only two-sides of plaid-woolen shawl, since shawls were folded double diagonally into a “triangle” for wearing over head or shoulders.
After Elsie and Dorothy’s mother Ottelia Bader Pahl retired from farm to her town-house in Kulm during 1960’s, Ottelia removed black silk/rayon fringe – then added a worsted woolen- yarn fringe on all sides in colored intervals of pastel blue, pastel pink, red, and black.
Donor List and Original Owners of German from Russia
Shawls displayed for the May 19, 2006 event:
Shawls from the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
Donor List, Original Owners
Donor: Elsie (Pahl) Gebhardt
Original Owner: Karolina (Zahl) Bader -- 1895
Donor: Delores (Ketterling) Hanson
Original Owner: Christina (Ziegenhagel) Gruszie -- 1900
Donor: Ruth Rausch
Original Owner: Luisa Kohls Kruckenberg -- 1904
Donor: Amalie (Schlittenhard Reiger) and Emelia Schlittenhard
Original Owner: Kristina (Wagner Reiger) Littke -- 1908
Donor: Vi (Kruckenberg) Scheilke
Original Owner: Salome (Sommerfeld) Unrath -- 1908
Donor: Hilda Kusler
Original Owner: Hilda Kusler -- 1910
Donor: Theresa (Mack) Wald
Original Owner: Katherine (Deringer) Mack -- 1914
Donor: K. G. Lehtinen
Original Owner: Mrs. Eugene (Kraft) Gabriel -- 1910s
Donor: Philippine (Baumgartner) Berglund
Original Owner: Philippine (Baumgartner) Berglund --
Shawls from the Emily Reynolds Historic Costume Collection
Original Owner: Donna Alby -- 1884
Original Owner: Annalee Donnelly -- mid-1800s
Original Owner: James and Gilbert Haggart -- 1880s
to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested
by contacting Michael