Wraps of Love: Shawls of Germans from Russia Immigrants

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 Luncheon Program
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 cultures.

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 -- 1920s

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


Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller