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Civic and Political Activities of the Finnish People of Quincy

People of Finnish extraction settled in Quincy more than forty years ago. At first their civic and political activities were limited to their own immediate sphere because of inability to speak the English language, and they were influenced to a large measure by the trend of thought existing in the mother country.

The Uljas Koitto Temperance Society was the first organization to be established here by the Finnish people. This society has not only promoted temperance and morality but has been the main civic center among the Finnish people.

The ladies of the society took an active part in the Women's Suffrage cause and they have never failed to exercise the right which they so nobly assisted in acquiring. Some of the leaders in this cause were Mrs. Anselm Heikkilä, Miss Anna Tikkanen and Mrs. Alma M. Anderson Duncan. They with other Finnish women participated in the famous parades held in Boston by advocates of the cause.

There have always been women's clubs connected with the Uljas Koitto Temperance Society. At the present time the Sewing Circle and Sister League are doing good work, the latter rendering charitable service.

The Uljas Koitto Temperance Society was actively represented in Red Cross, Liberty Loan Drives, Welcoming Home the Soldiers, The Quincy Tercentennary Celebration, the Bay State Tercentennary, and many other community affairs.

The Finnish Chorus has for many years competed at the annual Music Festival held in Symphony Hall, Boston, under the auspices of Community Service, Incorporated, and has won many trophies.

The Quincy National Band, oldest band in Quincy but young in spirit, has given many concerts at Merrymount Park. It also gave a concert in Symphony Hall, Boston, in connection with the Bay State Tercentennary celebration.

Politically, the Finnish people here as in other localities have, with the exception of a small number of Socialists, adhered to Republican principles and staunchly supported the Republican party. Let it here be said that voters of Finnish extraction do not shirk their civic duty by failure to vote. During the last Presidential campaign it was checked and ascertained that only three did not vote. Of these, one was in New York State, one in a hospital, and one was employed out of town and did not return until after the polls had closed .

There have been no major offices, appointive or elective, held by people of Finnish extraction in Quincy. Mr. Victor Natti, Mr. Frank J. Simon, Mr. Axel Johnson and Mr. Jalmar Sakki have been constables. In the Police Department the Finnish people are represented by Thomas Kantola, the first appointee, and William Bjornholm, appointed by Mayor Gustave B. Bates; George Lindgren, appointed by Mayor Perley E. Barbour; and Carl Seppala, appointed by Mayor Thomas J. McGrath.

Mrs. Anselm Heikkila was appointed an assistant assessor, and Mrs. Konstant Eloranta and Mrs. Hilma Karhu assisted in enumerating the national census. In the teaching forces of the public Grammar and High Schools and the playgrounds the Finnish people are well represented.

During the various local political campaigns there have been Finnish Political Clubs, and to date the one best remembered is the one which existed at the time when Hon. William A. Bradford and Hon. Gustave B. Bates were candidates for the Mayor's office. This campaign was marked by an eloquent and instructive debate between Mr. George A. Helin and Yrjo M. Matson at a meeting held in Italian Hall on Water Street.

Attorney Yrjo M. Matson has without doubt rendered the greatest political service of any one of Finnish extraction in this city or state. In local politics he has always taken a definite stand and has nearly always been with the winner. He has a keen judgement on political matters and his views are sought and respected by those in political life.

Mayor Gustave B. Bates appointed him a member of the Park Department and his associates elected him Secretary of the Board. During the first term of Mayor Thomas J. McGrath he served as Chairman of the Park Department and his services in this capacity have never been surpassed.

He is an ardent supporter of Governor Frank G. Allen. During the last Presidential campaign a Finnish organization was effected at a luncheon held in the Chamber of Commerce Building in Boston in the interest of Herbert Hoover and Mr. Matson was chosen chairman. He also addressed Finnish groups throughout the state in behalf of Herbert Hoover and the Republican ticket. Mr. Matson has always respected the people of his national origin and has done everything in his power to further their interests and urged them to interest themselves in civic and community affairs.

In recent years the Uljas Koitto Temperance Society has co-operated with the Anti-Saloon League and Women's Christian Temperance Union. It is also a member of the Eastern Finnish Temperance League.

There are two Finnish Churches in Quincy, one Lutheran and the other Congregational. At no time in the history of the local churches have they had so large and rising memberships.

The foregoing is an abridged history of the civic and political activities of the Finnish people of Quincy which could be supplemented by volumes in detail. Based on the past, the future should be much richer in achievements.

Published in Uljas Koitto raittiusseuran neljäskymmenes vuosijuhla julkaisu 1890-1930. Uljas Koitto Temperance Society. Fortieth anniversary edition. Brooklyn, New York 1930, p. 38-39.

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