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  • Writer's pictureVesa Oja

Pat Spivak Fairport Harbor 2007

5th Finglish trip July 2007 #23

At the Finnish Heritage Museum in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, Pat Spivak nee Sandhill, Hietamäki in Finnish, is telling a story of Amy Kaukonen. In 1921, Amy Kaukonen was elected mayor in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, a small community in the northeastern portion of the state. Amy's grandparents came from Vähäkyrö and Kurikka in Finland.

Amy was accomplished, having graduated not only at the top of her Conneaut, Ohio high school class, but also with high honors from the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the first Finnish woman doctor. She was the “first Conneaut Finn kid to graduate high school.” Historically, she was the first woman Mayor elected in Ohio, and most probably, the second in the country.

Since the 1880’s, Fairport, a busy lake port of entry, had a certain deserved rowdiness combined with extensive use and misuse of alcohol. Dockworkers liked their alcohol and evening entertainments. There were 28 saloons in 1901, where the marshal had to quell many fights and two breweries. But by 1906, all the saloons as such were closed. Ninety percent of the soft drink establishments, pool halls, and hotels (saloons in disguise) openly sold bootleg whisky. Fairport’s Kasvi Temperance Hall’s Finnish members fiercely fought back.

Amy Kaukonen changed the course of the tiny village to one of civility and family life instead of criminal activity. Without her efforts, a continued underground criminal element may have flourished and surfaced in time to become the culture of the town. Fairport could have become a center of organized crime. It did not.

Next Helen Kasari Fairport Harbor Ohio USA

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