Elsie Baker
Showcase Elsie in her business.

Women Veterans Day was first observed on June 12, 2018, to mark the 70th anniversary of President Truman signing into law the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. The law enabled women to serve as permanent members in the regular Army Corps, Marine Corps, Navy, and the later formed Air Force.

One of those women who called Kissimmee, Florida, her home was Elsie Ethridge Baker. Born on January 20, 1909, to Moses and Angeline Baker in Owensboro, Kentucky, Elsie moved to Florida in 1945 following her discharge from the Women’s Army Corps. She was the fourth of ten children born into the family. At age twenty-one, she worked as a spinner in a factory in Butler County, Kentucky, to help support the family.

On February 17, 1943, Elsie enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in Nashville, Tennessee. It was noted, she had two years of high school and semiskilled occupations in the production of synthetic fibers and processing chemicals and other materials. Following her discharge on November 15, 1945, at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, Elsie took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study at Tommy Bright’s School of Floral Design in Chicago, Illinois. Upon arriving in Florida, she worked at leading florist shops in Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville before purchasing the Hattie Stanton Flower Shop on Stewart Avenue in Kissimmee in 1948. Elsie renamed the shop Kissimmee Florist Shop. Later, it was known at Baker’s Florist and Gift Shop, relocated to Monument Avenue. When Elsie retired and sold the business, she remained in Kissimmee for several years. Eventually, she moved to Coffee County, Georgia, where she passed away on October 15, 2006.

Elsie never married or had children, however according to a newspaper quote from a 1972 article she admitted: “one of her happiest and most rewarding moments, in the florist business, is when one of ‘her kids’ calls her on the phone from one of the four corners of the earth to order flowers for a parent.” It was a thrill for Elsie to hear the voice of those former high school students she came to love as her own, and many would even say, “Elsie, this is one of your kids, please send flowers to …”

Written By Anza Bast

Sources: Ancestry.com; Find A Grave; Fold3; “Kissimmee Gazette” August 13, 1948, August 10, 1972; “Messenger Enquirer” November 18, 1945