Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society archives
Ada James was a woman’s suffrage leader in Wisconsin who led the Political Equality League from 1910 to 1912, and served as the executive secretary of the Wisconsin Woman’s Suffrage Association, or WWSA, from 1912 to 1915. In these leadership roles she toured around the state promoting small town grassroots suffrage organizations through speeches, leaflets, and other pro-suffrage publications. She also fought against the strong anti-suffrage presence in Wisconsin by exposing how Wisconsin breweries were using their money to bribe and win the votes of the Wisconsin legislature.
After stepping down from her leadership role in the WWSA in 1915, Ada turned her attention to more radical forms of suffrage activism like picketing the White House and civil disobedience. This was the same kind of activism used by nationally known suffragettes like Alice Paul and the members of the National Women’s Party. She supported these efforts by lobbying Wisconsin and important swing state congress members in 1917 and 1918 to vote for a national amendment to grant women the right to vote. Her lobbying was a very radical form of activism because it meant that Ada was talking directly to the congress members from each state, rather than the community in which the members served. This hard work and organizing paid off when Wisconsin became the first state to ratify the 19th amendment. This was an amazing accomplishment because the Wisconsin legislature had denied a suffrage amendment just a few years earlier in 1912.
This collection is made up of 30 boxes, but the only boxes that you will focus on are 18, 19, 20 and 24, which demonstrate the radicalization of Ada and the Wisconsin suffrage movement between 1912 and 1919. One of the best parts about this collection is that it is available online through the University of Wisconsin-Madison archives. This means that you can dive into Ada’s story at any time, whether it be at home, in your classroom, or at a library. In order to access the digital collection do the following:
Most of the letters in Ada’s collection are written in cursive, which may seem scary. However, once you start reading the collection you will get used to the cursive handwriting quickly. You will even be able to tell who wrote some of the letters just based purely off their style! By the end of your time with this project, reading the cursive will be one of the best parts of the collection because the unique handwriting of each suffragette gives the documents character, distinguishing them from type-written documents.
If you want to read, feel, and connect with the documents that Ada and other famous suffragettes like Alice Paul wrote in person, ask your teacher to get in contact with the Area Research Center found at the nearest UW campus. Interacting with the letters online is enjoyable, but there is nothing like seeing the real thing… it can even be life changing!
To get the collection do the following:
Box 18, Folder 1: January-February, 1913
In this folder pay special attention to the letters between Ada and Lutie Stearns because they are the presidents of the Political Equality League and Wisconsin Woman’s Suffrage Association. These letters also suggest a merger between the organizations. In particular find the letters all dated January 7, 1913 to Ada from Lutie Stearns, Ms. Shaw, and Crystal Benedict. These letters show support for and opposition to the merger. As you read, ask yourself what did Stearns and Ada hope to accomplish with this merger?
Box 18, Folder 3: March 26-November, 1913
Look at the pamphlets and copied letters from June 5, 1913 for examples of how the state suffrage organizations helped support and strengthen local organizations. Find the March 29, 1913 letter between Ada and Theodora Youmans, the president of the WWSA. Also, look for letters between these same women between June 4 and June 13 as well. These letters detail the logistics of the WWSA. Look for propaganda and specific details about where pro-suffrage documents are being sent and how they are used.
Box 18, Folder 2: February-March 25, 1913
This folder of details the strategies of the National Woman’s Suffrage Association (NWSA) by including letters that discuss sending suffragettes to represent Wisconsin at the Suffrage march in Washington D.C in March,1913. The letters between Ada and Mrs. Palma Pederson from February 1, 1913 and the meeting minutes from the joint suffrage convention on February 4, 1913 are two of the key documents in the folder. The letters dating between March 20 and March 24, 1913 are also important documents because they explain the NWSA’s tactics. Pay attention to the emphasis put on open-air speeches and suffrage education within local communities by the NWSA.
Box 18, Folder 4: Jan-May, 1915
This is a very rich folder because there are a number of important letters to find!
Again, pay attention to the letters between Ada and Theodora Youmans from January 26 through February 7, 1914 because these letters detail how the Wisconsin suffrage movement went about building a strong enough voice to propose a second state amendment before the legislature following the first one’s failure in 1912.
Find the letters between Ada and Crystal Benedict. They are dated March 14 and March 25, 1914. Benedict writes to Ada on how much public support the possible amendment has.
Lastly, look at the letter to Ada from Alice Paul from February 6, 1914 because this letter marks a shift in her perception of suffrage organization towards radically fighting for a federal amendment. Read to find what Paul considered radical and on the tactics in which Ada agreed with Paul.
Box 19, Folder 1: June-September, 1915
Find letters between Ada and Alice Paul from June 27 and June 28. Notice that there is a shift in the organizational tone.
The letters addressed to Ada from Alice Curtis all dated August 8, 1915 are also key letters as Curtis asks for Ada’s advice on how to properly organize conventions and public speaking events.
Find the letters dated between June 19 and June 25, 1915 between Ada and Theodora Youmans, who was the president of the WWSA at the time. In these letters, note what parts of Youmans’s agenda Ada supports and rejects regarding Alice Paul’s congressional union.
Box 19, Folder 2: October-December, 1915
Find the list of tactics used by suffragettes sent to Ada all from October 12, 1915. Also read a few letters from October 12, 1915. What connection do you see between the tactics used and the attitudes towards those tactics and the suffrage movement. The brochures in this folder all dated November 4, 1915 provide a key understanding into how suffrage literature was written and what they were arguing for.
Box 19, Folder 3: 1916
These letters to Ada from February 12 to February 19 detail a change in the Wisconsin Woman’s Suffrage Association (WWSA). Read these to look for the shift that occurs with Ada and the other members of the WWSA. Take note of the states that they turned their attention to.
Box 19 Folder 6: January-April, 1918
There are two important letters to find in this folder. First, find the January 10, 1918 letter between Ada and Congressmen John Shack, which demonstrates how lobbying helped gain support locally as well as nationally. Find the reason why the Congressman could not vote to pass the 19th amendment. Do you believe him? Do you think Ada believes him? Also find letters between Ada and Alice Paul all dated January 24, 1918. Note the sense of urgency between the two women. Why do you think it is present?
Reviewed by: Isaac Wegner
Image courtesy of Murphy Library special collections, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Raymond Bice was born in 1896 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Throughout his life he held many occupations such as lumber yard owner, contractor, assemblyman, chairman of local organizations, and part-time magician! During the beginning of his political career, during the 1940s, Bice started doing radio talks on La Crosse’s station W.K.B.H. His talks are typed and address a variety of topics, such as education, mental health, highway safety, how politics work, and even beer!
In 1947, Bice proposed legislation that would set and enforce a speed limit law for rural roads in Wisconsin. He believed that the number of deaths was too high and preventable. Believe it or not, this legislation was controversial! Indeed, when Bice first tried to pass the law, it was defeated by a vote of fifty-four to thirty-eight. In 1949, the legislation did pass, and the new speed limit law called for a top daytime speed of 60 miles an hour, and a nighttime limit of 50 miles an hour. The law also placed signs on all roads. This was Bice’s most influential work as a politician, and the first speed limit Wisconsin had seen in over 20 years.
Raymond Bice was a very active member within his community. Through his radio shows he demonstrated how much he cared for public interests, and how he wanted to inform his constituents, the people he served. He used these shows, correspondence (letters), and public events to hear the opinions of the general public. When not on the radio or in office, he even put on the occasional magic show for the community!
The collection consists of four archive boxes that contain information on Raymond Bice from the years of 1946 to 1968. The boxes include an oral history, letters with community members, news clippings, and documents regarding Bice’s legislation. This Friendly Finding Aid will focus on Bice’s use of radio to create public support for passing a speed limit law in Wisconsin. The documents you’ll be using are only in three boxes and four folders! Most of the documents in the folders are typed and organized, making the collection easy to read!
The boxes that you’ll be reading are not in order, but that’s nothing to worry about! If you follow the order below, everything will make sense.
This Box contains Bice’s oral history that summarizes his personal and political life.
Folder 1: The oral history in this folder is around a fifty-page interview that includes general history, Bice’s life, and how he started his career in politics. It’s great background reading, but you don’t need to read all of it. That would take a very long time! The reading is broken up into four interview sections that each have their own page numbers. So, if you skim the booklet you’ll notice that there is more than one section labeled “Transcript of Raymond Bice.” Think of each of these as the beginning of a new chapter. Go to the last chapter and read pages four through seven. Bice talks about how his speed limit bill was only a small part of his twenty-two-year tenure on the Senate. Read this to find valuable information on why Bice was passionate about his community and the laws he made.
In box four you’ll only be using folder 10. The folder is not very big but contains important information. There are three types of documents you’ll want to read.
Folder 10: First look for a white, folded spread sheet. It shows the number of automobile accidents and deaths in Wisconsin from 1941 to 1947. The sheet also provides information on driving conditions and other circumstances that contributed to accidents. Keep in mind that it was Bice’s goal to reduce the number of deaths occurring in rural areas. By the 1940s thirty-four states had already adopted new speed limit laws and most of them had fewer fatalities per capita than Wisconsin. Speed was especially problematic in rural areas because there were fewer “educated” drivers and less enforcement to patrol the area.
The next documents to find are government documents. They are not numbered or organized by date, which may make some of them a little difficult to find. The documents will usually have an official-looking seal on them and will have a fancy signature at the bottom. These are important because they suggest that Bice was not the only government official that wanted safer speed laws. These papers are important. Read them to find out who the other people and organizations were that supported Bice’s proposition.
Last, find a greyish-white paper. The title is, “A Father Writes His Son.” It is a letter written by B. McCutcheon to his son. It is in support of Bice’s law. The letter talks about how the boy’s parents don’t feel comfortable with him driving at night or speeding. It’s emotionally appealing and personal, and is a very persuasive argument for safer roads. Do you think that this letter is real? Or was it made up to serve as propaganda? Think about this as you read.
Box two contains folders with Raymond Bice’s typed radio speeches. These speeches are numbered and cover a wide range of topics such as education, mental health, teachers, and the primary focus of this FFA, speed limit and highway safety!
You’ll be looking at Folders 26 and 27. One of Bice’s main goals as a politician was to educate his constituents. Bice’s most common radio subject was about highway safety, but it was closely followed by the importance of education. For example, speeches 10, 11, 12, 20, 39, and 40 all address the significance of a good education and teachers’ rights. Bice argues that education is important because it supplies the future with a reliable work force. If you’d like to read about education, these speeches will give you a good starting point. Bice’s radio shows addressed public concerns, and through them he tried to create a well-informed population that was able to understand and contribute to society.
Folder 26: This folder contains some of Raymond Bices typed W.K.B.H. radio speeches. These talks address statistics and how many people are being affected by speeding drivers. Bice often addressed the same issues in different speeches. Below are a few you’ll like. As you read notice how Bice uses factual evidence and emotional appeal to tell the public why they should be concerned with safer highway regulations.
• Speech numbers 5 and 21 deal with the speed limit.
• Speech 7 discusses the financial aspects of owning a car in the U.S.
• Speech 40 is titled “America on Wheels” and talks about how Americans have been safe with their use of cars.
• Speech 41 reviews facts about drivers’ licenses.
Folder 27: This folder contains statistical information on accidents that happened at the local and national scale. Statistics act as Bice’s main argument in advising the public on safer roads, and he uses them often. These radio talks also show how farmers and law enforcement agreed with a new speed limit bill for safety and security reasons.
• Speeches 42 and 46 contain information regarding the number of fatalities in car accidents as a result of speeding.
Reviewed by: Logan Gove
This collection is comprised of papers from Wisconsin’s first female Senator, Kathryn Morrison. Senator Morrison was active in a lot of issues but this FFA deals with her work on mental health rights and treatments. The whole collection has 23 boxes, 34 photos, and 7 audio recordings! The materials pertaining to mental health rights, however, are only in boxes 7 and 16. Morrison took notes and did her own research on a range of issues pertaining to mental health. Her notes are in cursive, on the margins, and all over the documents, but don’t worry, all the cursive is easy to read.
Box 7 contains letters from families asking for advice. Box 16 has government documents and rough drafts of edits to documents. They are everything from daily correspondence to proposed amendments. Wisconsin Chapter 51 legislation, the law dealing with mental health rights, is in this box along with all of her edits to it! Government documents have their own language, but again it is also easily understood and, in some documents, there is even a glossary provided!
The boxes in this collection are have a lot of folders, but there’s not a lot of information in each folder. For example, some of the folders only have 3-4 pieces of paper in them. Each folder has a title on it and a file number out of the total number of folders. For instance, in box 7, folder 14, has the title “Mental Health”, and 14/26 written on it as well. All of the folders are removable, so while they should be in numerical order they might be out of place. When taking out the folder you need, make sure that it has the correct title and number on it.
Box 7 Folder 14The title of this folder is “Mental Health.” In this folder there are letters which are great examples of the problems that families with mentally ill loved ones faced. To find the letters below look for the dates on the top. All of the letters will have a thin typewriter piece of paper stapled to them, which is Morrison’s response. Make sure to read both.
December 6, 1977: Read the handwritten letter first. It is on a small piece of paper and is in cursive, don’t worry though, it’s easy to read. The letter is from a family in Cuba City, Wisconsin who has a mentally ill person in their family. As you read notice how having a mentally ill person affected them.
February 13, 1978: This one is the longest, but still only 3 pages. As you read look for the interaction between the mentally ill and law enforcement.
April 5, 1978: The letter is on a photocopied piece of paper (this one is in cursive too, but again, easy to read). In this letter the writer talks about the issue of how expensive caring for a mentally ill person can be.
Box 7 Folder 14 Find the green pieces of paper. These are typed and deal with nursing homes and the mentally ill. Next, find a lined piece of paper. This is Morrison’s handwritten notes. It is important to read these documents first because they are an intro to the papers in Box 16 and a central issue that Morrison worked on.
Box 16 Folder 5This folder isn’t that full, but it has a lot of good information in it. The title is “Care of the Mentally Ill, Special Committee.” With these documents date is one way to find the them, but other ways will be listed below.
March 6, 1978: This is the first piece of paper to look for. It has the words “Wisconsin Legislative Assembly Chamber” in blue at the top center. As you read look for Morrison’s beginning interest in mental health.
September 19, 1978: Look for “Monroe Manor” in the top left. These papers deal with nursing homes and funding. Read them to look for possible conflicts between funding and the nursing homes. These documents go along great with the set from November (below).
November 9, 1978: These are the papers that go along with the ones from September 19. Look for a thin typewriter page with the red words “Mentally Ill” in the top right. As you read look for the same conflicts that arose in the September papers. See if you can figure out how Morrison wanted to solve these conflicts.
The New Glarus Home: These are a set of papers dedicated to the nursing home in New Glarus. They give information on a draft of a law pertaining to nursing homes and the mentally ill. During Morrison’s time it was common for the mentally ill to be living in nursing homes along with the elderly. It’s a lot to read, so if you want, just read the first page. That will give you plenty of information. If you read more look for any issues pertaining to the proposed laws.
Box 16 Folder 15
The title of this folder is “Mental Health-Chapter 51 Implementation Committee.” It has a lot of information. If you like sifting through hundreds of pages of government documents than this one is perfect for you! If not, there are two documents to focus on.
January 12, 1977: Next find the papers with “State of Wisconsin/Department of Health and Social Services” on the top. This is the Chapter 51 legislature before the amendments. Look at the key on the first page to help navigate this document. The key is a table of contents as to what’s in the legislation. Morrison dealt a lot with 51.10, 51.20, 51.61, and 51.80 so start with those. As you read this packet also look at the documents from December 1, 1976 to see the changes.
Reviewed by: Tori Holtz
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Murphy Library Area Research Center
The John E. McConnell Papers is a small, but varied collection. It consists of 4 folders, filled with letters, speeches, news clippings, and even a couple of small pictures. Thankfully, the speeches and news clippings are typed and easy to read. On the flip side, the majority of the letters are written in cursive and require a bit of detective work to read—but don’t worry, you can do it! John E. McConnell was born in 1863 in Farmington—just outside of La Crosse. He spent his teenage years in West Salem before leaving to study law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 1895-1899 McConnell served as La Crosse County District Attorney, and as a representative in the Wisconsin Legislature from 1909-1911. Throughout his life, McConnell was an active citizen—he was eager to learn from prominent political officials, important educators, and fellow lawyers. He was active in local politics, state politics, education, and law reform.
This FFA focuses on McConnell’s commitment to Progressive politics. Note that the FFA does not cover folder 4 and works backwards—first folder 3, then folder 2, and lastly folder 1. Folder 3 is filled with newspaper clippings that provide excellent insight into McConnell’s character. Start here because it will help you understand folders 2 and 3. Folder 2 is filled with typed, easy-to-read material. This background makes reading the cursive letters in folder 1 a breeze…or at least much easier.
The materials in the folders are not in a set order. Look for any dates or other eye-catching details on each piece to find specific documents. For example, in folder 2 there is a letter titled like this: July 1889, West Salem. City Attorney. This means that you will find the date, (July 1889) the city, (West Salem) and the title (City Attorney) on the first page near the top. Sometimes there are dates written in pencil on the top right-hand corner—look for these! Whenever there is a date written pencil, this FFA uses it to help you find specific documents.
This is a skinny folder, but it is full of information about John E. McConnell. Its clippings provide excellent insight into McConnell’s character. Read all of it! There are 4 total newspaper clippings: 3 different obituaries and a short article. Each obituary provides slightly different information, which gives insight into McConnell’s character. After reading this folder, would you have wanted to know John?
This folder is mainly speeches. They include graduation speeches, political speeches, and a few speeches for returning World War I veterans! They clearly show McConnell’s progressive spirit in the way he advocates for improved education, social justice, and equality. Throughout this folder, look for McConnell’s handwritten margin notes—they are a great example of his progressive mindset. If you’re curious as to what John E. McConnell looked like, look for a small business card with McConnell’s face on it. Below are selected pieces that show McConnell’s progressive thinking.
July 1889, West Salem. City Attorney
This speech focuses on the themes of state pride and patriotism. Read to see how McConnell thinks about Wisconsinites.
A legislative record is a list tracking the votes of legislative representatives. Find the quote from Charles William Eliot. He was a very prestigious man and the President of Harvard University. Eliot’s quote clearly shows McConnell’s Republican-Progressive stance.
In this speech, McConnell encourages the graduates to live a life dedicated to improving the human condition. Read this speech to find the high-minded ideals McConnell preached.
1912, Republican Standpoint (It’s in purple writing)
This campaign speech is meant to be persuasive. It gives a clear example of Republican-Progressive ideals. In it McConnell compares how progressives think in comparison to other politicians. Read to find the competing political groups McConnell references.
“Charity Workers Open Convention in Local Church”
This clipping is a newspaper reprint of a speech McConnell gave at the Wisconsin Conference of Charities. (It is no surprise to find McConnell, a Progressive, involved in this conference.) It was one goal of the Progressives to help the poor through government or community-paid programs. Read to get a sense of the Progressive movement’s concern towards the needy and less fortunate.
This folder contains a wide variety of letters. Some are personal, dating all the way back to McConnell’s college years! There are only a few personal letters, but they reveal this budding idealistic character. The selected letters below are grouped based on topic. They are: business, government efficiency, personal research, and voting.
1870, Aug 18—Cyrus W. Field
Cyrus W. Field was a leading businessman in the telegraphing industry. He was part of the committee that laid the trans-Atlantic cable, creating a faster communication between the U.S. and England. How did McConnell understand the government’s role over this new style of communication?
1883, Oct 15—Personal Letter, John A. Logan
1883, Oct 3—Purple Writing, Benjamin Harrison
1883, Nov 11—Plain Paper, John H. Reagan, Palestine, TX
1883, Nov 19—Navy Department
These four letters are grouped together because they are all responses to questions McConnell asked. In each letter McConnell is curious to know about the efficiency of debates in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. By Sending multiple letters, McConnell is trying to figure out if the government of the United States can be improved for the benefit of American citizens. Included in this group are letters from future President Benjamin Harrison and former (Civil War) Confederate Cabinet Official John H. Reagan! Read to find out what they say.
1885, Dec 12—University of Michigan
1885, Dec 1—Princeton University
1885, Dec 15—Johns Hopkins University
This group of three letters displays McConnell’s questioning nature. All of them were sent to distinguished professors from respected universities. He asks for book recommendations based on each professor’s specialized area. He also asks for their opinion on ways to improve the voting and law-making process. These letters are a clear example of Wisconsin Idea thinking! Why do you think McConnell went to these men with his questions?
1886 Jan. 9—United States Senate
Tuskegee Normal School—Booker T. Washington
McConnell sent letters to a wide range of people. Here he questions both U.S. Senators and leading African American educator, Booker T. Washington, about the right to vote. McConnell wants to know how test (reading or civics) would impact the voting process in the United States. What were the responses?
Reviewed by: Austin Schulz
“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