m. 25 Mar 1908
Facts and Events
Edwina Whitlock Austin
by Scot Austin
Edwina was the second child in a farm family of four children. During her school years the family moved often from farm to farm, sometimes her father was an employee and sometimes a tenant. As a result, Edwina and her syblingsseldom attended any school longer than a year or two. When she began high school her father was working a farm owned by a man named McElroy in Carbondale, Illinois. Edwina learned to drive at the age of thirteen and each morning before school she would drive their model T ford pickup to the dairy in town and deliver the days milk from their cows. A woman across the street from the loading dock called the dairy to complain about that poor child having to lift the heavy milk cans from the truck to the loading dock, so after that she had to park in front of the dairy and carry the cans through the building back to the receiving area. On March 18th 1925 the worst tornado in US history originated in Missouri and swept across Southern Illinois and Indiana killing 695 people and injuring 2, 027. It hit the neighboring town of Murphysboro, 7 miles West of Carbondale, particularly hard where 234 were killed and in the aftermath, the entire town burned. Edwina and her Carbondale High School classmates stood in the school yard watching the flames and smoke visible all the way from where they were. (In 1950 when on the the way to the Great Smokies for a family vacation, we spent the night with friends in Murphysboro. I, a nervous 9 year old was unable to sleep that night for fear of a tornado. At that point, I only knew of tornados from my mother's tales of that tornado and the movie, The Wizard of Oz.) The next year they moved to Centralia and Edwina transferred to Centralia High School, graduating in 1928. Her older sister, M. G. remained in Carbondale where she enrolled in Illinois State Normal Teacher's College, now SIU, where she earned her degree and teaching certificate. After graduation, Edwina worked as a sales girl at Montgomery Wards for a year and then enrolled in the Washington University School of Nursing at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.
M. G. graduated from Carbondale in 1931 and began teaching in Grand Chain, Ill. Edwina graduated in 1933 and began working as a Nurse. Their father having lost his job with the onset of the depression was unable to help with their education finances so MG helped Edwina as she finished school and they both helped their younger brother and sister as they attended Illinois Normal and became teachers. Jay eventually earned a PhD in music education and became a professor at the University of New Hampshire. Neola became an Elementary reading specialest and her husband, whom she met in Carbondale became a professor of business at Michigan State University and finally head of the busuness school at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. MG never married and taught in the Illinois School system for 40 years supporting her parents until her mother's death in 1952. Kelley returned to school after Mable's death and became a milk tester for the Farm Bureau until his retirement 6 or 7 years later.
In 1936, Edwina took a job as a visiting nurse with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company providing home care for their insured. Her duties included primarily pre-natal and neo-natal care for young mothers and their babies. Metropolitan transferred her to Waukegan where she met her husband to be singing in the choir at the first Baptist Church there. She continued with Metropolitan for several years until she had to leave to spend full-time raising her 5 children. (When I entered Waukegan High School, years later, I was surprised to find several older African-American girls there named Edwina after her.) When her children were grown, she returned to Nursing and was instrumental in founding a OB&G and Pediatric clinic in Waukegan for indigent mothers, persuading local Doctors and Nurses to volunteer for part time duty. She retired in 1970 when she and Phil moved to Door County Wisconsin where they lived the rest of their lives.