American Girl Wiki

Marta is a Swedish girl and fellow immigrant whom Kirsten Larson makes friends with immigrating to America.

Personality and Facts[]

Marta is a Swedish girl close in age to Kirsten; she has thick blond hair she wears back in a braid. Like Kirsten's family, her family (her parents, a mother and father, are unnamed) are immigrating to America and settling in Minnesota; she is an only child.

It is never stated if Marta and Kirsten knew each other before immigrating, but are close friends on the Eagle and spend lots of time playing together, sharing food, and sharing ideas about what life might be like in America. Marta dreams of picking apples, believing that they will be found anywhere. Marta is very upset at being separated from Kirsten in New York after their long time together, and overjoyed when the families reunite in Chicago.

Marta, unfortunately, does not make it to Minnesota; she dies of cholera on the Redwing riverboat during the journey up from Chicago to the Minnesota territory. It is never said what her parents do after her death or if they even choose to remain in America and, while Marta's portrait is shown in Kirsten Learns a Lesson, she is only mentioned in memory.

In the Books[]

Meet Kirsten: An American Girl[]


Marta and Kirsten together on the boat.

Marta and Kirsten are playing on the deck of the Eagle together. Kirsten sees the distant shore and Marta shades her eyes to get a better look, saying it will be good to walk on land again before shivering. The two girls hide in a coil of rope to get away from the wind. Marta has her doll wearing her apron like a shawl. The two girls share bread and begin talking about what they think America will be like. Marta says that the first thing she wants to do in America is pick an apple, as they are (in her mind) everywhere. Marta then wonders if they will be there by tonight. Papa finds them both and escorts them below deck since it is about to storm.


Marta and Kirsten reuniting at the boarding house.

Marta's family does not take the train to Chicago like the Larsons; her father says the train is loud and smoky, and that they might be afraid of them. Because of their separate routes, she is worried that she and Kirsten will never see each other again. Kirsten tells her to look at the sun when she's lonely as they all see the same sun. Kirsten and Marta promise to look at the sun and pray for each other, and Marta promises to look for her everywhere. (According to the book Welcome to Kirsten's World, Marta's family took a steamboat north to Albany, a canal boat from Albany through the Erie Canal, and then a Great Lakes steamer over three Great Lakes (Erie, Huron, and Michigan) to arrive to Chicago).

After Kirsten arrives at the Chicago boarding house and steps on the porch where the children are, Marta calls her name to catch her attention--her family made it to the same place. She runs up to Kirsten happily and the girls embrace and whirl. At dinner Marta's father says they are back with friends and the two families will stay together the rest of the way to Minnesota. Kirsten and Marta hold hands under the table.


Marta and her mother in the sick bay.

Marta's family takes the riverboat, the Redwing, with the Larsons. She and Kirsten try to go explore on the upper deck but, as it is only for richer passengers, they are immediately shooed away by a sailor. The first two days Marta and Kirsten play together, watching the hawks overhead and the fish in the river. The third day, Marta is not there when Kirsten arrives; Kirsten goes out on deck and finds Marta's father there instead, who informs Kirsten that Marta has come down with cholera. Kirsten cannot believe this as she was fine last night; however, Marta doubled over with a pain in the night and has been sent to the sick bay.


Marta's coffin being carried for burial.

Kirsten, despite the warning from Marta's father, runs to the sick bay where Marta and her mother are. Marta is lying on a straw mat closest to the door, her knees drawn to her chest. Her lips are cracked and dry and her mouth is open as if she can't breathe; her eyelids flutter and she moans and trembles when her mother tries to wipe her forehead. She is not even conscious enough to see Kirsten or hear Kirsten speak her name. When Kirsten tries to come closer, Marta's mother tells her to leave and to pray Marta will get better, which Kirsten prays for.

Marta dies in the middle of the night. Kirsten initially hopes she is better when she goes to the sick bay and does not see her. As Kirsten comes out on deck, she sees the sailors on shore carrying a coffin, not knowing that it's Marta inside. When she asks Marta's father (who is holding his wife close) where Marta is, he points to the coffin and explains that Marta died that night and her soul is in heaven before hiding his face in his hand.

Marta's death devastates Kirsten considerably, and she is upset with the memory of her loss for a long time afterwards.

Kirsten Learns a Lesson[]

Miss Winston shows Kirsten a model ship and Kirsten tells her about her time on the Eagle; Marta is mentioned when Kirsten talks about playing on the deck with her. She also thinks of--and misses--Marta when receiving and reciting her new poem for school, imagining Marta sitting by her side on the deck.


  • Due to the limited amount of characters in the play version, Marta dies in front of Kirsten instead (as her parents are not given roles).