Elnora(Elinor and Nora) Rehnen was born in October of 1880. An exact birthday or birth record was not found. She was the daughter of Henry Rehnen and Susannah Smith. Henry and Susannah had five children; Katherine (1871), Edward Bernard (1875), Francis (1878-1881), Elnora (1880), Rebecca (1884). The lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
In the 1900 Federal Census, Elnora was 19 years old. She was living at home with her parents and her siblings. Her occupation was listed as a seamstress. In the 1910 Federal Census, she resides with her parents and all of her siblings, two of whom are married with children of their own. They live on Force Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana during the 1900 and 1910 Census. Elnora is now working as a salesperson in a factory. It was listed as a Waist Factory.
The term “Waist” is short for Shirtwaist which was a garment worn by working woman in the early 1900. This industry boomed at the time because woman were entering the work force across America. Since they were working, they no longer had time to make their own clothing. The garment industry flourished with the demand for “off the rack” Womens’ clothing. Factories sprang up and woman who were accomplished seamstress were drawn to them for employment.
The Shirtwaist consisted of a long sleeved blouse which was gathered at the waist so it could be tucked into a skirt. The shirt was usually just several inches longer than a woman natural waist. Often the skirt was dark so it did not show dirt. They would have one or two skirts which they wore everyday. They would have three shirts that they would alternate between so they always had one clean, one they were washing and one they were wearing. It was often embellish with an interchangeable belt type garment which they sometime referred to as a waist. They were inexpensive garments that they could afford to have several of. This enable them to wear what looked like a different garment everyday.
Classic garment worn by working woman in 1910 and made in Shirtwaist Factories.
Elnora worked in this type of a garment factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
By the 1920 Federal census, her father, Henry Rehnen has died. Elnora is living with her Mother and two adult siblings, Katherine and Edward and Edward’s son, Parnell. Elnora has been promoted to Forewoman in the Waist Factory. That is quite and accomplishment for a forty year old woman in her day. I found it interesting that in the Census, it actually said “Forewoman” instead of “Foreman”.
In the 1930 Census, Elnora, Edward and Katherine remain at home of their Mother, Susannah. They live on S Hoagland Avenue. Elnora never married and lived in her Mother’s home her entire life. I did not find a 1940 Census records for any of the Rehnen families in the Fort Wayne area. Their surname is often written wrong or translated wrong. On the July of 1944 death record for Katherine Rehnen, her address is listed as the 3231 S Hoagland Avenue which was her Mother’s home and the same address that was in the 1930 Census.
Elnora died on May 16, 1944 at the age of sixty four years old. She is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Rest in Peace,
I spent the better part of the afternoon trying to sort out whether Elnora or Elinor is how her name is really spelled. I am able to find death certificates for her siblings but not for her which tells me that there is likely a spelling issue. I did see her listed as Nora in Fort Wayne Municipal directories but a search on Nora Rehnen did not produce a death certificate either. If I ever sort this out, I will update this post.