Find us on Google+

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area

Oiva W. Saarinen

Hardcover 343 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-320-4

Release Date: September 1999

Online discount: 25%

$44.99  $33.74


Paper 343 pp.

ISBN13: 978-0-88920-353-2

Release Date: November 1999

Online discount: 25%

$38.99  $29.24


Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2000 by Choice

Where else can that well-known phrase be better applied than to a study of the Finns in Sudbury? “Rock” defines the physical reality of the Sudbury setting: rugged hills, mines, farms and forests set in the Precambrian Shield. “Hard” defines the human setting: Finnish immigrants having to contend with the problems and stresses of relocating to a new culture, with livelihoods that required great endurance as well as a tolerance for hazardous conditions.

Since 1883 Finnish immigrants in Sudbury, men and women alike, have striven to improve their lot through the options available to them. Despite great obstacles, the Finns never flagged in their unwavering fight for workers’ rights and the union movement. And as agricultural settlers, labour reformers, builders of churches, halls, saunas and athletic fields, Finns left an indelible imprint on the physical and human landscape. In the process they have played an integral part in the transformation of Sudbury from a small struggling rail town to its present role as regional capital of northwestern Ontario.

This penetrating study of the cultural geography of the Finns in the Sudbury region provides an international, national and local framework for analysis — a model for future studies of other cultural groups.

Oiva W. Saarinen is a professor in the Department of Geography, Laurentian University, Sudbury, and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Finnish Studies.


Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A Historical Geography of the Finns in the Sudbury Area is an exciting new addition to the study of Finnish immigration and settlement in North America. The book’s interdisciplinary approach, which spans the fields of geography, history, and cultural studies, enables Professor Oiva Saarinen to present a rich and multidimensional account of the immigrant experience in the Sudbury area....The excellent illustrations in this book deserve special mention. The book has twenty-four tables and figures and seventeen maps. The maps, which took years of painstaking research, illustrate the residential patterns in the many Finnish enclaves in the Sudbury area. In addition. Saarinen has compiled a variety of telling photographs and allowed the immigrants’ voice to be heard through twenty short biographies scattered throughout the book....Between a Rock and a Hard Place offers an intelligent and a respectful account of the Sudbury area’s Finnish settlements from their modest beginnings during the first part of the twentieth century to their golden years, which spanned nearly five decades, and to their years of harmonious integration into the English-speaking community during the end of the century. The legacy from the traditional Finnish communities of idealism, hard work, struggle, and defiance will continue to live on the pages of Saarinen’s book.”

— Varpu Lindström, Journal of Finnish Studies

“Reading Between a Rock and Hard Place was a moving experience for me, as names and faces of people who were part of my childhood are not only placed in the historical context, but given respect and honour. The challenges facing the early immigrants are almost impossible to imagine, yet Oiva Saarinen has made them come alive — a remarkable achievement in a historical text.”

— Judy Erola, former minister of State for Mines (1980), minister responsible for the Status of Women (1982) and minister of Corporate and Consumer Affairs (1983).

“Devoted to the ‘historical geography’ of the many Finns who settled in the Sudbury mining area of northwestern Ontario, Saarinen’s monograph is a model of impeccable scholarship and a thorough examination of the ‘Finnish factor’ in the social, economic, cultural, and political development of this hardscrabble region of mid-Canada....Although Canadian in its historical context, this work contributes especially to the understanding of Finnish immigration, the unique texture of Finnish cultural adaptation to blue-collar lives in North American mining centers, and the nature of ethnic retention among them, whether they settled north or south of the US-Canadian border.”

— K. Smemo, Choice