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Featured Article: "Esau, Elma Elisabeth (1917-2009)"

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Elma Esau, ca. 1948.
Photo by Siegfried Janzen
Mennonite Heritage Archives photo 658.069

Elma Elisabeth Esau was born 14 September 1917 to Edward and Clara (Claassen) Esau near Whitewater, Kansas, USA. She was the second child and eldest daughter in a family of four sons and two daughters. Elma grew up on the family farm; she never married. Elma Esau died on 16 November 2009.

Elma graduated from Whitewater High School in 1935 and attended Bethel College for two years. She returned to Bethel and completed her BA degree in 1969. Prior to World War II she was a school teacher for two years in Logan County and two years in the Whitewater community. From 1943 to 1981 she volunteered and then worked for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and its subsidiary, Menno Travel Service (MTS).

Elma Esau began her MCC service at the Ypsilanti, Michigan, relief training unit in 1943. She then worked to set up and manage relief clothing centers in Ephrata, Pennsylvania; Kitchener, Ontario; and Newton, Kansas. In April, 1945 she went to the MCC Center in London, England, and from there on to serve in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. In the summer of 1947 she traveled around the USA speaking to women’s groups at Mennonite churches about MCC’s relief work in Europe, and then she remained at Akron until April 1949, when she went to Gronau, Germany, for additional relief service.

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