The La Crosse County Women’s Political Caucus (LCWPC) operated in the La Crosse area from 1973-1981. Their goals included encouraging women to run for elected offices, providing information about campaigns, and educating female candidates on issues on the campaign trail. They also sought to provide the public with more information about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and held a forum about Affirmative Action. The women in the Caucus offered services for feminist candidates that they had sought out to run for office. Members would babysit, help make phone calls, or provide coffee for the candidates. The Caucus put a lot of energy into recruiting women and advocating on behalf of the ERA. Along with the ERA the women would write to state congressmen to discuss various legislation that applied to women in Wisconsin. The Caucus held workshops for women interested in getting into politics, and even marched in the Maple Leaf Parade dressed as women from various eras!
This collection is made up of fifteen folders, housed in one box. This FFA, however follows the folders that describe what the LCWPC feminists (people who believe the sexes should be treated equally) were most passionate about, how they interacted with the La Crosse community, and how they operated as a group. It follows a story about La Crosse women in a movement, known as second-wave of feminism, which was a major turning point for women across the US. Selected below are a few folders that will help give a better understanding of what this group did to benefit the condition of women.
The LWCPC operated similarly to other branches all over Wisconsin and the US. Look at the bylaws (rules and guidelines for how the organization will be run) in this folder and notice the description of the group and what their goals as an organization were. Read this to get a sense of how women’s organizations worked.
This folder contains newspaper clippings that are about the La Crosse County Caucus. There is an article about Sharon Imes, “First Woman Alderman: ‘Not a Feminist.’” What does she say about the Caucus and her stance on feminism? Pay attention to articles about elections and ask yourself how many women there were compared to men. How are they described (mothers, teachers, wives, or other roles)? How are the men described? Pay attention to the demographics to get a better idea of who was involved in the organization. In other words, how many working, middle, or upper-class women were there in the Caucus? What about Caucasian, African American, Asian American, or Hispanic members?
This is the biggest folder in the collection and is devoted to correspondence. There are also random things like an issue about membership fees with the organization’s head in Madison, and registration to walk in the Maple Leaf Parade in 1975. It’s fun to see what the women were doing, and how they interacted and viewed their La Crosse community. It’s not necessary to read the entire folder but leaf through to find something interesting. For example, there is a flyer describing the frustration wives felt about being listed in the phonebook under their husband’s names.
This folder is completely dedicated to the Equal Rights Amendment. Look for notes about frequently asked questions and answers about the ERA, along with information the women probably used to discuss the amendment with the public. Much of the debate about the ERA was centered on how women’s traditional roles would change as wives and mothers. Pay attention to how the women in this organization felt the ERA would address this.
This folder contains correspondence with contemporary state congressmen. Most frequently they contacted local politicians, Virgil Roberts and Paul Offner. Some of the letters to Roberts and Offner are about tax reform, but others tackle real issues surrounding anti-rape laws and abortion rights. There is one letter to Governor Wallace of Alabama to advocate for the ratification of the ERA in his state. Pay attention to the language the women use, is it polite or assertive and how do the men respond?
Reviewed by: Katelyn Rigotti
“The Third Term Panic” www.harpweek.com
Samuel D. Hastings was a lawyer, real-estate broker, and merchant who lived in La Crosse during the mid 1800s. During his time in La Crosse, Hastings dealt mostly with buying and selling land in the general area (La Crosse County, Trempealeau County and parts of Winona), but he also had strong political ties and eventually became Wisconsin State Treasurer.
This collection is made up of one box with a letter book and five folders full of letters written (in cursive) to and from Samuel D. Hastings. They are about Hastings’ business and political activities, and date from 1838 to 1872. Each of the five folders varies in length but on average there are somewhere between 100 and 150 letters in each! This finding aid, however, covers only the letter book and folder 1, and highlights only a couple of pages and letters from each. That’s because most of the correspondence is about land transactions and real estate deals, however there are some letters that focus on the Civil War, abolition, and the creation of the Republican Party. There may be only a few gems in this collection, but they shine brightly!
The letter book has page numbers so finding specific letters is not difficult, however the letters in folder one do not. They are identified by year, but take this as fair warning, you may still have to hunt!
This is a bound book, which holds around 400 pages (it is the largest piece of this collection), and is filled mostly with land transaction receipts and correspondence between Samuel D. Hasting and Francis Newland spanning a number of decades. Only the first 150 pages of the book were reviewed for this Aid, but in those pages there are a few worth noting: Page 49, relates to the Union; Page 68 covers a Republican Party conference that was held in Madison; and Page 91 is about the Trempealeau County militia. If these gems entice you, keep reading, there may be more!
This folder contains letters from the year 1838 until May of 1856. The early letters in this folder deal with Samuel D. Hastings while he was secretary for the Union Anti-Slavery Society based in Philadelphia. Letters dated in 1838 talk about the society helping to free 500,000 slaves calling it “the greatest day on Earth since the death of Christ.” Another letter from that same year describes the role Philadelphia churches played in the “fight for freedom” for all men. Besides these two letters, there are two more that discuss the Republican Party. One dated 1855, speaks about a branch of the part forming in New York State, and another, dated 1856 reference Geneva Wisconsin. The writer is very impressed with the party’s activities there, calling it “the self of true republicanism.”
Reviewed by: Allie Schmitt