The Sørensens – A Working-Class Family

The daily life of a working-class family with eight children seen from their home in 1915.

The Sørensens were Peter Martin Sørensen, Karen Marie Sørensen and their eight children. Peter Martin was a labourer, and Karen Marie a full-time housewife. After moving from the countryside to Copenhagen in 1885, the family had many different homes before moving into a two-room flat in Østerbro in 1915. This flat provides the basis for the exhibition about the family’s daily life.


In 1915 five of the Sørensen children still lived at home. Karen (27) took care of the family home, Kristian (26) worked on the docks, Anna (21) was about to go into service, and Yrsa (19) and Olga (17) worked as servants for upper-class families.


When their parents died in the late 1940s, Karen and Kristian continued to live there, and in the mid-1960s their sister Yrsa took over the flat. Yrsa never married. She worked as a cleaner, and her last job was taking care of the toilets at Copenhagen Central Station. She stayed in the flat until December 1989, when she moved into an old people’s home. Her family donated the entire contents of the flat to the Workers Museum, who can now show visitors the home of an unskilled labourer from the early 1900s.


The flat has two rooms, with a front room facing the street and a bedroom and narrow kitchen facing the backyard. In the beginning there was an outdoor lavatory, but later a toilet was installed on the backstairs. When Yrsa Sørensen moved out, the apartment stood virtually untouched as it was in 1915. All the floors are covered in the original varnished pine planks, and if you move the furniture you will see that it had always been in the same place: the family simply varnished around the furniture, leaving the planks underneath it bare.


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