What It Means to Be American
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Explore : Minnesota

Identities

The Women Who Built Mayo Clinic

After a Tornado Wrecked a Minnesota Town, Franciscan Nuns and Physicians, Anesthesiologists and Social Workers Helped Create a Pathbreaking Medical Center

By Virginia Wright-Peterson
November 26, 2018

Several years ago, a few colleagues and I discovered a well-kept secret about Mayo Clinic, where we all worked.

We had decided to create a Jeopardy game for Women’s History Month based on women who were involved in the early years of the physician’s practice that evolved into our internationally renowned academic medical center. I offered to visit the clinic’s historical archive, expecting to glean a few little-known facts about the handful of women who were staples of the organization’s 150-year-old …

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Ideas

How the South Made Hubert Humphrey Care About Race

The Minnesota Liberal's Louisiana School Years Turned His 'Abstract Commitment' to Civil Rights Into 'Flesh and Blood'

By Arnold A. Offner
July 26, 2018

It is one of the great ironies of 20th-century American history: Hubert Humphrey, the foremost proponent of civil rights among American politicians, had little contact with African Americans until age 28.

Humphrey’s distance from people who would benefit from his legislative prowess was a result of biography and history. He was born in 1911 in the tiny prairie hamlet of Wallace, South Dakota, which had no African Americans. In 1919, he moved with his family 50 miles southwest to slightly larger …

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Places

The Minnesota Miners’ Strike That Brought Immigrant Workers Together

In 1916, Finnish, Italian, and Slavic Laborers Put Aside Divisions to Make a Historic Stand

By Gary Kaunonen
May 10, 2018

On June 2, 1916, 40 mineworkers from the St. James Mine in Aurora, Minnesota, walked off the job. The men, mostly immigrants, were fed up with the dangerous conditions they faced blasting and hauling iron ore in open pits and underground shafts, and with the prolonged abuses of mining company managers. The men had had enough. They fanned out across the almost 100-mile Mesabi Iron Range to entice fellow laborers to drop their work and join the common cause.  …

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Identities

How Norway Taught Me to Balance My Hyphenated-Americanness

A Minnesotan Grapples With Identity in His Scandinavian "Homeland"

By Eric Dregni
November 20, 2017

During the year I spent studying at the university in Trondheim, Norway, I sometimes learned more about my own country than Norway. One day, in my immigration studies class, my professor David Mauk, who hailed from Ohio, asked, “What does it mean to be American?”

I braced myself to hear the usual stereotypes from the news from the Norwegian students in my class. Then the professor clarified, “What to you is truly good about America?”

Even though I’m an American, I …

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Places

Tater Tot Hotdish, Minnesota Soul Food

My Home State’s Favorite No-Fuss Meal Is a Tribute to Its No-Nonsense Spirit

By Lori Ostlund
February 29, 2016

I am a Minnesota writer. I realized this only after my first book was published in 2009. One reader called it “a crash course in being Minnesotan.” Reviewers noted that my characters were oddly formal, obsessed with grammar, wanting to connect with others but unsure how to do so—all traits that I had grown up surrounded by and passed on to my characters. A friend said that she would never want to break up with one of my characters because …

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