“Laughing Girl at the Photographer” by Ethel Olson
Eleonora and Ethel Olson were multitalented sisters who possessed gifts as classical musicians and wonderfully rich senses of humor. As second generation Norwegian-Americans the Olson sisters were able to straddle both the Old and the New Worlds and find humor in the most common and familiar circumstances as they articulated the difficulties immigrants faced when adapting to life in the US. Though they were never able to obtain the full degree of training they deserved as classical artists, Eleonora as a singer and Ethel as an actress, the Olson sisters achieved an impressive level of success as musicians and comediennes. The sisters toured together throughout the country, putting on extremely popular musical performances as well as comic acts featuring sketches based on humorous dialect stories of immigrant culture clashes. From 1918 to 1923 Eleonora and Ethel recorded musical performances and dialect monologues for various record labels including Victor, Edison, Brunswick and Columbia Records. Some of their most famous dialect stories include Mabel’s Wedding, A Norwegian Woman at the Telephone, and The Baseball Game. The sisters stopped touring in 1923 when Ethel married and in 1925 they published a booklet of their dialect stories entitled Yust for Fun!, which was republished in 1979 with additional information and photographs.