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Emma Bloch was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. She was the youngest of five children – 2 brothers and 2 sisters. She received a liberal education in Copenhagen and her parents always encouraged her to ‘reach for the stars’. In 1852 she met brewery owner James Thorsen and they married soon after. On July 20th, 1869, with their 4 children in tow (ages 16 to 8 years), The Thorsen family moved to Chicago to find their American Dream. Emma quickly opened a millinery store on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, becoming a very successful business women. In 1871 she began to plan for her most successful future endeavor, and in 1891 Emma and 12 friends met to discuss their plans to finally organize The Society for The Danish Old People’s Home, which would eventually become The Danish Home of Chicago (a not-for-profit organization, privately financed and endowed, providing a comfortable and dignified community for the elderly) – just what Emma and our 12 Founding Women envisioned.
Steadfast and determined to work for the cause, yet devoted and sympathetic to others, Emma was inspired to one day be a “voice for senior care”. Motivated by her Danish culture, she believed that the elderly deserved a place to call ‘home’, even during a time when this idea was somewhat disregarded. She was faithful to preserving Danish customs and traditions, and often urged her great-granddaughter (who she sometimes viewed too carefree) to follow in her footsteps.