Henrietta Morrison has done a lot in 105 years. She witnessed the struggle of the Great Depression, the end of a world war, and the complete transformation of technology.
Morrison was born in 1918 in Dakota County Minnesota, where she lived for more than 20 years. Her Father was self-employed as a mechanic and machinist, and her mother worked as a house cleaner for a local landlord. Like many in those days her family struggled financially. She attended school until she was 13, then she dropped out to help support the family by working with her mother as a house cleaner. “I wish I had been fortunate enough to finish high school and get a better job than what I had,” said Morrison, “but I was brought up in hard times.”
When Morrison was 16 years old, she took a job in a factory that manufactured office supplies. She worked until she got married. When World War II broke out and all the factories and manufacturers were in desperate need for good workers, and with most of the able-bodied men being sent overseas, almost all manufacturers hired women. Morrison was one of those women.
She took a job at Swift & Company, a meat packing plant in St. Paul, Minnesota, cutting pork and other types of meat. After the war, the men came back and the plant wanted to give them their jobs back — but the women who had been working there for the duration of the war had seniority. Swift & Company would assign the heavy jobs to the women hoping they would quit from inability to perform their job. But Morrison was not one to be bullied. “I took every job they offered,” she said, adding “some of them were pretty hard, but I mastered it.”
Morrison worked at Swift & Company until it closed in 1959.
After Swift & Company closed, she volunteered for the ladies VFW, organizing and coordinating events. She was so dedicated to her work that she received the 1990 Bell Tower Senior Volunteer of the Year Award. Morrison worked as a volunteer until her retirement, then moved south to Texas to be closer to her family.
Morrison truly lived a blue-collar life. Coming from modest beginnings and working until she simply couldn’t. The most prevalent change she says is in technology. “I think the biggest change is all this automation” she said. “Machinery has taken a lot of manual labor.”
Morrison spends her days surrounding herself with family and playing bingo with her neighbors of her hospice. She has a brother, Leroy, who still lives in Minnesota, a daughter, Jane, who lives in Azle, and a son, Glen, in Flagstaff, Arizona.
- Wade Blake
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