Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

VICTORIA MICHNIEWICZ

Morning Star, May 25, 1997, pg. 11

The large number of Eastern European immigrants that came to Albion to work at the Albion Malleable Iron Company during the 1910s faced housing and educational challenges. Workers were placed in company housing in the N. Albion Street-Austin Avenue area, which became known as the "foreign settlement."

The Albion Public Schools initiated night classes in 1915 at West Ward School, and in 1916 at Austin School for adults wishing to learn the English language and other subjects. The cost of the classes (for the 1917-18 school year) was $3.00 per month. Classes were held for several years thereafter.

One of the teachers at the night school was Victoria Michiniewicz (1902-1979), the daughter of Paul and Anna Michniewicz. A native of Poland (as were her parents), Victoria grew up here locally and attended Albion High School, graduating with honors in the class of 1919 [She then went to Albion College]. Because of her multi-lingualism, she was able to relate and teach English and citizenship during the early 1920s. Many immigrants looked up to her. I know of at least one person in Albion who was named after her.

A story was related in the local paper in 1921 of one immigrant girl of 14 years, who was forced to stay at home to care for a child of her cousins who were in the local work force. The family lived in three small rooms that had no windows. The paper commented, "Perhaps you citizens of Albion do not know that in your fair city exist conditions as bad as in any slums of New York."

This particular girl wished to learn the English language and take classes. Victoria and a friend persuaded her to attend Victoria’s night school where she could take the same classes that would be offered in regular day school. The girl agreed. Three nights later, a 24-year old Polish adult student noticed that the girl’s shoes were split on the sides, ripped at the back, and very thin-soled. He spoke in Polish to Victoria as he handed her several bills.

The next day Victoria took the girl to local merchants where she purchased not only shoes, but other clothing items she need. The incident caught the attention of the local newspaper, which praised not only the donor, but Victoria for the splendid work of "Americanization" she was performing for the community.

Victoria moved to Chicago where she married N. F. Szubzynski and had a daughter named Marcia. Victoria later married a man with the surname of Norik. She died in Chicago in 1979, and is buried here in Albion’s Riverside Cemetery in the family plot.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1919 photograph of Victoria Michniewicz.


Victoria Michniewicz

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