Author, Editor, AADAS Chair:
A report on the work of Dr. Swierenga
- Dr. Robert P. Swierenga has completed his magnum
opus, a full-length history of the Dutch in his "hometown" of Chicago,
where his immigrant ancestors settled in the 1890s. He has devoted
most of his time to this project during the last five years. "I have
never enjoyed the writing of a book more than this one," he says. "It
tells the story of my own family and community." The book's tentative
title is Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy
- In the 1970s an estimated 250,000 Chicagoans
claimed Dutch birth or ancestry and the Windy City was
second only to Grand Rapids, Michigan, as a Dutch center.
But with only 3.5 percent of the populace in the Chicago
metropolitan region, compared to 20 percent in the Grand
Rapids area, the Chicago Dutch have remained an invisible
people to historians and journalists.The Chicago Dutch
were a polyglot population from all social strata, regions,
and religions of the Netherlands. Three quarters were
Calvinists; the remainder included Catholics, Lutherans,
Unitarians, Socialists, Jews, and the nominally churched.
By all expectations, the Dutch should have rapidly Americanized,
intermarried, and disappeared as an ethnic group. Indeed,
this happened to those who preferred American denominations
such as the Presbyterians, and to Dutch Jews and Catholics
who joined German congregations. A Holland Presbyterian
and a Holland Unitarian church also served the westsiders
briefly, but both collapsed. Only one Catholic parish
of some 200 families, St. Willibrord in Roseland-Kensington
that was formed in the 1890s, preserved a Dutch Catholic
identity in the twentieth century.
The Dutch Reformed were concentrated
in four enclaves until the 1920s: the Old West Side,
Englewood on the near South Side, and Roseland and
South Holland on the far South Side. From these "nests" eventually
came many other Dutch settlements in greater Chicagoland.
Of the four core areas, the Old West Side was "in almost
every respect the most interesting of them all," according
to Amry Vandenbosch in his book, The Dutch Communities
of Chicago (1927).
From Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy
City by Robert P. Swierenga, to be published in 2002 by Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Dr. Swierenga is also editing the English translation
of Amsterdam Emigrants: Unknown Letters from the Prairies
of Iowa, published in Dutch by Dr. J. Stellingwerff in 1975.
Walter Lagerwey has translated this important documentary on
the Iowa immigration of the Rev. Hendrik Scholte. The work, under
the auspices of the Dutch American Historical Commission, will
carry the imprint of the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and
be a contribution to the Historical Series of the Reformed Church
in America, of which Prof. Donald Bruggink of Western Theological
Seminary is general editor.
- Students of the Dutch in America
now have access to a basic library - the Lucas
and Van Hinte histories; Lucas' Dutch Immigrant
Memories and Related Writings (1955; reprint,
1997); Brink's Dutch American Voices (1995),
a collection of immigrant letters; and my book, Faith
and Family: Immigration and Settlement in the United
States, 1820-1920 (2000), which provides immigration
statistics and explains the behavioral complexities
of the resettlement process from beginning to end.
These five books comprise an essential library
and put at one's fingertips the key information
- letters, memoirs, historical narrative, and statistics.
Let no one question the fact that Dutch American
scholarship has arrived!
- From "The Third Generation and Dutch
American Studies, 1960-2000," Dr. Swierenga's keynote
address given at the 13th Biennial Conference of
the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American
In June 2001 Dr. Swierenga completed his
two-year term as president of the Association for the Advancement
of Dutch American Studies (AADAS). The biennial AADAS conference
was held at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with
the theme "The Dutch Adapting in North America." Session
topics dealing with issues of higher education, acculturation,
and immigration featured speakers from the United States,
including Dr. Bruins, and from the Netherlands, including
Drs. George Harinck and Hans Krabbendam.