Chicago, Illinois -- Growing up, sisters Susan Decker and Barbara (née Decker) Wachholz listened to their grandmother, Borghild “Bobbie” Aanstad, tell the harrowing story of how—at the age of 13—she, her mother Marianne, and her sister Solveig survived the Eastland Disaster. With the help of Bobbie’s uncle Olaf Ness, a Western Electric employee, the family had stayed afloat in a compartment between decks for hours.
Later in life and as adults, Susan and Barbara recognized the importance of keeping alive their grandmother’s story as well as the stories of the many others impacted by the Eastland Disaster. In 1997, the sisters—together with their mother Jean Decker and Barbara’s husband Ted—conceived the Eastland Disaster Historical Society (EDHS), and on December 30, 1998, they incorporated EDHS as a 501c3 not-for-profit organization.
Since 1998, EDHS has been preserving and sharing the names, faces, and stories of the tens of thousands of people affected by the tragedy. We have been preserving and sharing the stories that make us who we are, the stories that define our human and cultural experience. We are connecting millions of people today to these personal stories, and ultimately to the history of the tragedy. And with your help over these past decades, together we have elevated the importance and relevance of the Disaster’s history across the country, and as of late, in Europe and around the world, too.
Looking ahead to 2023, we will be celebrating our 25 years of providing a valued service to millions of people—people just like you. We hope that we have made you and your family feel special through the years. It has been our privilege in doing so.