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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Women working for the war effort in Washington, D.C.

In this excerpt, Morris describes her job working for the Signal Corps in 1943. As part of the World War II effort, Morris and several of her sorority sisters moved to Washington, D.C., after graduating from college. At the Signal Corps, the women worked to code and decode messages. In addition to describing one kind of work women did during the war, Morris also describes what it was like for a group of young women to live on their own for the first time.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAT DEVINE:
Tell me about this plan in college to go to Washington. You said last time that you and five sorority sisters decided you wanted to do that.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Mm-hm. A lot of people did; it wasn't only our group. A good many of the girls in the senior class went to Washington to work. The boys were being drafted right out from college. Every week or two, three or four boys would leave the campus. When we were graduating, most of us already had jobs. One friend of mine went to Hampton, Virginia, to work in something having to do with aerospace design. I went to Washington, and five of my sorority sisters went with me. Two of them had already gone ahead of us. They finished in December at the end of the first semester, and they went on ahead and got the apartment, and then we joined them, and we knew others from the class who were there, so a good group was in Washington. We worked with the Signal Corps, coding and decoding messages.
PAT DEVINE:
That took a lot of training, to learn to do that?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Not a great deal. As was always true with the government, those who majored in Spanish were put not in the Spanish section but probably in the Italian section; those who majored in French were put in a section completely foreign to what they were trained to do. In fact, a French professor at the college went up there and worked, and she, I think, was in the Spanish section. I'm not sure, but anyway not the language with which she was trained. I was put in the Japanese section. Of course, I knew nothing about Japanese. I didn't need to, the way that we worked, the system that had been devised for breaking codes. We were successful. It was very interesting.
PAT DEVINE:
It must have been. And you were there for how long?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Just a few months. I went up there in June. My father died the last day of July. I went back up there and worked for a while and came home, I'm not sure when. It was sometime at the end of the summer when I resigned and came home, so I wans't up there but about three or four months.
PAT DEVINE:
Am I right that that was perhaps your first time to live away from home?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Oh, indeed it was. I'd never lived away from home before.
PAT DEVINE:
Do you remember that as quite an adventure, to be in Washington with your sorority sisters?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Oh, yes, I did, it was quite an adventure. None of us got any sleep; none of us knew how to cook. We didn't know anything about it, but we learned rather quickly. I think I lost about fifteen or twenty pounds while I was up there. We took turns cooking. Two of us cooked, and two cleaned, and so forth. We had it divided up. The cooking chores were given for a week, and the girl who had it with me knew less about cooking than I did. When we had the cooking detail, they usually got hot dogs, because that's all we knew how to cook. But the butcher told us one time he thought we ought to give them something else, so he suggested we give them pork chops. We didn't know how to cook them, so he told us how to cook them. But we got along all right. Everybody was doing the same thing.