Verda Alvina Wille

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I am very pleased and proud to have the opportunity to honor my sister Verda Alvina Wille who without a lot of formal education rose to the position of an officer of the company she worked for over a period of thirty years. Verda was born in 1926 the sixth child and fourth daughter of Henry and Ida Wille who lived on a sixty acre farm in Cook County Illinois. This farming enterprise consisted of raising small vegetables for the consumer market in Chicago. Income from the farm was small barely enough to provide for the family. In just three years there were events that would have an impact on Verda's life. In 1929 the stock market crashed and the country entered a period of financial turmoil causing the worst depression the country had ever experienced. During the depression Verda's parents lost their farm. They then moved to Elmhurst Illinois a large town in DuPage County about fifteen miles south of the farm. It was tragic for them that this happened after twenty years of farm ownership but for Verda it was a blessing in disguise. After Verda had been in grade school a few years some of her teachers realized something was wrong. When she sat in a seat close to the blackboard she still could not see the figures clearly. She herself didn't think anything about it as it was natural to her. She gave her teachers credit for realizing something was wrong. It seems that scarlet fever was the culprit that affected her eyes. The teachers with the help of Verda's eye doctor were able to get her transferred to the sight saving classes offered by the school district. She attended classes in one school in the morning and in the afternoon was transported to a second school that had equipment for the visually handicapped to do reading homework etc. When asked how she felt about going to the sight saving school she replied" It was fine with me because it enabled me to continue going to school." During high school Verda went to the sight saving room to study between classes. After she began her third year she had to drop out of regular classes. The teacher in charge of the sight saving classes came to her home and tutored her. It took three years to finish the last two years of high school. She graduated in 1945. She was the second daughter in the family to graduate from high school. When asked about her social life in junior high and high school she responded with “There really wasn't much in social life. I was picked up in the morning and brought back in the evening. The other kids were from all over the county. There were only two girls in the class the rest were boys. In high school the sight saving class took her away from the regular class just long enough to not be included in regular class activities. Because she did not attend the Lutheran school her confirmation class was with other students who also did not attend the school. This class was not included in planned activities for the confirmation class that attended the Lutheran school. Having to drop out of school she was not able to become a part of group activities that make a bond among students. In 1945 when Verda was ready to enter the job market the unions were supporting equal pay for women on the basis that if the females replaced males at a lower rate of pay the soldiers coming home from the war would find their jobs classified as a woman’s work with that of a woman's wage. Verda felt some of this discrimination not as a person but as a group in her first job with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. She started as a mail clerk advancing to stenographer clerk after ascending night school to learn shorthand. The better clerical jobs were held by men. She said" After seven and a half years I had made friends with the people I worked with and didn't feel happy about leaving but I saw no future in the job." While at her next job with a food brokerage firm as a secretary Verda attended Northwestern University night school for accounting classes. Verda had this to say about this job “There have been times at work when I had been harasses. The most difficult was at the brokerage firm. The seventy year old president made sexual advances to the women in the office. After working there two and a half years this man called me into his office and started talking to me. I told him I didn't want to listen to him and quit on the spot foregoing the year end bonus I would have received in a few weeks. Verda's next job with the Zurich American Insurance Company in its Chicago office was to eventually lead twenty seven years later to the position as The Secretary of The Company. She started out as secretary to the controller and then for five years worked for the head of the claims department. Here she found the same old story the women were paid less than the men for the same type of work. In April 1964 Verda became secretary to the United States manager of the firm. But she had to prove herself before he w