Elsie Jane Morrow by Mackenzie Brown
Life has a tendency to take every-day people to some unexpected places. One Indiana student experienced this first-hand. Elsie Jane Morrow’s life of duty and adventure began in 1912 in Hebron, Indiana. Morrow attended Indiana University for three semesters between 1929-1932 but did not earn a degree. She then enrolled in Moser Business College in Chicago, Illinois where she built upon her administrative skills that would later afford her the opportunity of gaining employment within critical government departments. Once having successfully completed the Moser program, Morrow went on to work within the Social Security Boards of Chicago and Washington D.C.
After the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935, these boards were established in order to register citizens for the receival of benefits and to oversee the process of sending payments to eligible beneficiaries (Ourdocuments.gov). This was a massive undertaking. In the early days of the Social Security Program, employees for the newly established agency were pulled from those that had existed previously (SSA.gov). There was a massive need for workers capable of completing the tasks necessary in order to get the program up and running. Elsie Morrow was up for the challenge.
After sometime working within the Social Security Boards, Morrow entered into an administrative role within the United States War Department. This was an early iteration of the agency we now know as the Pentagon, which was officially up and running in 1943 (Defense.gov). The War Department was founded in 1789, with the purpose of maintaining the US Army under the direction of Congress (US Gov’t Manual). Morrow held her position within the department until she decided to join the US effort in the second World War as a member of the Red Cross.
During World War II, this service organization took on responsibilities of recruiting nurses, collecting blood donations, and overseeing the rehabilitation of civilian war victims (The American Red Cross). Morrow served with the American Red Cross as a secretary for overseas hospital units. She was only able to do so once she underwent specialized training in Washington D.C. and qualified for duty out of the country. Morrow was one of six local women to join the Red Cross in 1945 (NewspaperArchive-The Vidette Messenger). An article published in a Valparaiso, Indiana newspaper detailed her experience serving in the Pacific theater in 1944. A letter featured within the article described how Morrow’s strangest experiences within her service to the country had largely to do with wildlife, primarily with frogs. In the letter written to her brother, she described her nightly ritual of checking her sleeping quarters for critters ranging from spiders to other wildlife one would not exactly be well acquainted with in small-town Hebron, Indiana. In this clipping is also a description of the barracks Morrow resided in. She described, “They give a false feeling of privacy, but do not hamper the conversation and talk right through the walls” (IU Archives).
At the time this newspaper article was published, Morrow had recently been assigned duties in Australia along with 179 other workers of the Red Cross. It is during her time serving as a hospital administrator in Australia that Morrow met Harry Corwin. Corwin was born in 1911 and hailed from the Midwest as well. In fact, his very small hometown Belle Center, Ohio is located only 4 hours away from that of Morrow. Their paths crossed while working for the Red Cross in Brisbane, Australia, where Corwin served as a field director during this time (NewspaperArchive-The Vidette Messenger).
Once the war concluded, the couple made their way back stateside to Indiana. Morrow and Corwin married on November 29, 1945 in front of friends and family.
After marrying, Elsie and Harry relocated to Lima, Ohio. Shortly thereafter, the pair welcomed two daughters named Anna and Jane. Eventually, the family would return to Morrow’s hometown of Hebron, Indiana. Corwin worked for the remaining 52 years of his life as an advertising representative and correspondent for several local newspapers. He also served as a member on the Porter County Convention, Recreation, and Visitors Commission. Harry Corwin passed away on August 27th, 1997 at the age of 86 (NWI). Members of the community that he and Elsie were so active in spoke of Corwin as a kind individual filled with enthusiasm and kindness toward others. His wife Elsie said of him, “He was a kind man. He was very considerate of others and a very compassionate man” (NWI).
Elsie Morrow passed away at the age of 89 on November 29, 2001 in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. She lived a remarkable life, one that led her to pursue her education and aid in the war effort across Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. She was a fixture in her community and left an indelible mark on those around her in her mission to serve others.
“Elsie Jane Morrow Corwin (1912-2001) – Find A…” Find a Grave, www.findagrave.com/memorial/161620207/elsie-jane-corwin.
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“Frequently Asked Questions.” American Red Cross, www.redcross.org/faq.html.
Greig, Terri Anne. “Harry Corwin Touched Many Lives.” NW Times, 29 Aug. 1997, www.nwitimes.com/uncategorized/harry-corwin-touched-many-lives/article_fe08f106-3de6-5610-9430-4413d0dee204.html .
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“The Social Security Act (1935).” Our Documents – Home, The National Archives and Records Administration, www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false.
Social Security History, www.ssa.gov/history/orghist.html.
“United States Government Manual-1945.” HyperWar: U.S. Government Manual–1945 [War Department], ibiblio.org/hyperwar/ATO/USGM/War.html.