Ada James and the Wisconsin Woman’s Suffrage Movement
Call Number/Collection Title: Wis Mss OP/ Ada James Papers and Correspondence
Citation: James, Ada Papers and Correspondence. 1912-1920. UW Digital Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin. Accessed October 15, 2019. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.AJames. UW Madison Special collections, area research center, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.
Location: UW Madison Special Collections, Area Research Center, Madison, Wisconsin.
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:
- First put the term “Ada James Papers and Correspondence” into the search engine of your choosing.
- Next, click on the link titled “Ada James Papers” from the U-W Digital Collections.
- Once on the site, click on the link that says “browse the collection.”
- This will take you directly to the online collection.
- I recommend that you bookmark this page, so Ada’s papers are readily available to you.
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:
- Ask your teacher to email the head archivist of your local Area Research Center (ARC).
- The call number of the collection is “Wis Mss OP.”
- Have your teacher ask the archivist to have boxes 18, 19, 20, and 24 sent to the Area Research Center where you will have to go to conduct your research.
- After just a few days, the boxes will be waiting for you in the Area Research Center.
Creating a Unified Suffrage Movement
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?
The Old Ways of Suffrage Organization
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.
Taking Steps Towards Radicalism
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.
The Shift to Radical Thought
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.
Clashing Ideals in Wisconsin
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.
Growing Support for Radicalization
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.
The Eyes of Suffragettes Fall on Washington D.C.
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.
The Final Push to Ratify the 19th Amendment
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
PL Icon #33, Goodell Collection, Record #4544, Collection M980004.
> Call Number/Title: Platteville Mss D, Peter L. Scanlan Papers
> Citation: Peter L. Scanlan Papers, Area Research Center, Southwest Wisconsin Room, Elton S. Karrmann Library, University of Wisconsin Platteville, Wisconsin
The real name of this collection is the Peter L. Scanlan Papers because all of the papers in it belonged to him. Scanlan was a member of the State Historical Society and became a curator and vice-president for the society. His daughter, Marian Scanlan, is the focus of this finding aid. Marian was Peter’s only daughter. She was well educated and attended multiple schools including the University of Wisconsin, which was very rare for women during the 1910s.
She volunteered in Washington D.C. during World War I, then became an English teacher. Marian started teaching in 1918 and worked until her death in 1943. She worked at a few smaller schools before she took a position as an English teacher at Washington High School in Milwaukee. During her summers off she went on many trips. She was also an author who published some of her poetry and her own book about Prairie Du Chien. Marian was a religious person and a lot of her views and beliefs can be seen through her poetry.
This finding aid will look at her biographies, various trips, works of poetry, and the praise she received from colleagues and friends. By looking at this information you will see that Marian lived a full and eventful life, was a successful writer, a dedicated teacher, and an independent woman.
The whole Peter Scanlan Papers collection contains eleven boxes, but his FFA focuses on just box 11, folder 3. Once in the archives ask for the Peter L. Scanlan Papers, box 11. To make the archives staff’s search easier, tell them the call number too (Platteville Mss D). Once you receive this box look for folder 3 which is titled, “Marian Scanlan: Correspondence, biography, poetry.” All the documents in this finding aid will be found in this folder. The “titles” of the documents listed below are actually the first line, the date (if given), or the real title of the work. The folder will look intimidating at first, but you don’t have to read all of it! If you follow the list of documents below you will only have to read a few to discover an independent woman.
Read these documents to get a sense of Scanlan’s life and personality.
“My father is two men…” (first line)
This document is 5 pages long and should be stapled together. It is a biography of Peter Scanlan written by Marian. Read this biography to get a sense of how Marian sees herself as a part of her father’s life.
“Marian Diner’s [Driver’s] School” 1934-5 (real title)
This document gives a detailed history of Marian’s life. It includes the schools she attended and when. Throughout she also writes about different details of her life. For example, in the beginning she writes about her best friend Margaret. Read this document to see her successes, leadership skills, and kindness as a person.
“Just at the height of her usefulness…”(first line)
This is a 10-page biography written by somebody else about Marian’s life. Read all of this if you would like, but if you want to know more about her character and successes focus on just the first four pages. Pay close attention to the sections about her travels.
Marian owned her own car and took many trips out west when “highways” were not fully paved. She took many trips with family and friends. Read below to discover more!
“TRIPS” (real title)
This document lists all the trips Marian went on in chronological order. Pay attention to the time of year that she went. How do you think her job as a teacher affected her travel calendar?
“In vacation 1922” (first line)
This document also lists Marian’s trips, but it also lists who she went with. It shows that her trips were big life events. Pay attention to the places she goes, and notice who she goes with.
For more details about these trips look at the document that starts with “Just at the height of her usefulness…”. This document goes through specific things she does on many of the trips listed above.
Throughout this folder are various notes of praise for Marian. In the biographies you will discover she was an author. A lot of the notes in this folder are to congratulate her on her book.
July 16, 1943 (date)
This document is praise from her colleges and friends. Read it to get a better look at how people saw her, felt about her, and what her public image was like. As you read keep track of how often the words brilliant and devoted appear!
“Potter Plaque” (real title)
This document was written after Marian’s death. Take note of the praise and kind words written by her colleagues and students.
Throughout the folder are various pieces of poetry written by Marian. Many poems have a focus on religious ideas but, there is also a focus on nature and the natural beauty of things. Below are a few poems that are notable.
“The newest styles are often old,” (first line)
This is an untitled poem about different fashion trends through different eras. This poem considers Egypt, Greece, Rome, and more!
“Goodbye” (real title)
This one considers using goodbye instead of goodnight. Read to discover why.
“Orphan” (real title)
To get a real understanding of Marian’s feelings toward her mother’s death, read this poem and the biographies from the biography section of this FFA.
Reviewed by: Emily Johnson
> Location: Platteville Mss BE; PH Platteville Mss BE; Audio 1657A, Kathryn Morrison Papers, 1974-1990
> Citation: Kathryn Morrison Papers, 1974-1990, Southwest Wisconsin Room, University of Wisconsin Platteville, Platteville, Wisconsin
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.
Personal Letters from Families
Box 7 Folder 14
The 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.
Morrison’s Government Work
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 5
This 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
Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)
> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin- La Crosse
> CITATION: William Koch, interviewed by Howard Fredricks, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, September 1971 – February 1972.
William Koch was born in 1882 in La Crosse to a family that lived on the North Side. He left school at the age of fourteen to begin working and help support his family. Throughout his life, Koch worked many jobs in La Crosse, including at the lumber mills, the railroad, and the Pearl Button Factory. He was married in 1910 and had two children. This interview was done in 1971-1972, when Koch was about 90 years old, however, Koch speaks very clearly about his whole life and is never shy to give his opinion!
This interview touches on many many subjects, however, this finding aid focuses on two major topics discussed by Koch:
- Life in La Crosse during the late 1800s and early 1900s (relationships, working class family life, child labor, sickness, adventuring in La Crosse, industry, ethnic and racial groups)
- Being a factory worker for the Pearl Button Company in La Crosse
The whole transcript is typed and a total of 348-pages long! But never fear, this finding aid lists just the pages needed for the two topics above.
Life in La Crosse
Pages 2-14: In this opening section of the interview, Koch describes his German immigrant grandparents and other family background. He tells what his childhood was like growing up on the North Side of La Crosse in the late 1800s, including information on his education, all of the jobs he and his family members had—including his young sisters—and interactions he had with some nearby Ho-Chunk children. Koch started working when he was 14-years-old, and his early jobs included the Milwaukee Coal Chutes, the railroad, La Crosse Rubber Mills, Pearl Button Factory, Coleman Lumber Co., and even picking potatoes in South Dakota. Koch also remembered hunting with his Dad and seeing passenger pigeons (now extinct)!
On pages 75-82 Koch talks about lumber production at the sawmills. Never one to shy away from expressing his opinion, Koch also shares is view on harvesting logs in Wisconsin, the building of a road through the La Crosse marsh, and the effect logging had on Native Americans in Wisconsin.
Pages 84-94 cover “river pirates”. These are people who stole logs right off the river from the lumber companies. In addition, Koch also brings up log jams, logging accidents, and his memories of the rowdy lumbermen in La Crosse. In this section Koch also discusses La Crosse’s Redlight district and other memories of downtown in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
On pages 95-100 Koch describes the rivalry between the North and South sides of La Crosse. He discusses other La Crosse memories as well, including farm animals and community pastureland right in town! He gives his opinion about the Ho-Chunk in the area, and why many lived on “Indian Hill.” Koch eagerly shares his opinion on the sale of liquor to local Native Americans, and the role whites played in bringing liquor and disease to Native Americans. It is important to note that during this part of the interview, he makes anti-Native American racist remarks. In your notes, make sure to put all his questionable language in quotation marks. That way, people won’t think his language is your language.
Page 122-142: In this section, Koch talks a lot about helping fight fires with the firemen as a kid—not unusual at the time. He had fond childhood memories of horses being used in town, which he describes, but he also recalled common diseases and dangers faced by La Crosse youth. (Just a hint, some of the diseases and dangers were connected to the river.)
Pearl Button Factory Work
On pages 15-41 William Koch begins to talk about his job at the Pearl Button Factory. (Most of this 348-page interview is about the Pearl Button Factory!) He describes exactly how the button factory worked: first how cutting buttons worked, then what the clam shell industry was like, then clamming along Wisconsin rivers and the Mississippi River. He also uses great detail describing how pay worked at the factory for the various jobs. He remembers workers rioting because of their pay.
Pages 42-74 cover why Koch eventually left the Pearl Button Factory. He shares information about the people he worked with, including many female factory workers. He also describes the social life of the factory, like the breaks the workers were allowed to take, and other changes that made the workday more enjoyable. In this section Koch also describes further how the factory ran, including the machinery they used. Eventually, the topic turns to how the invention of plastic helped lead to the factory’s closure.
Pages A-Z: These pages are different. They are lettered, not numbered, and are inserted right between pages 74 and 75 of the transcript. (Weird) This section is a kind of “grab bag” of a whole bunch of topics, some new, and others touched on previously. Here is a highlights list: Koch talks about how river pollution made it hard to find clams for the factory. He further describes some of the people he worked with, including his fellow female factory workers. In particular, he discuses their work roles and wages at the factory. He vividly remembers innovations made at the La Crosse factory and how these helped the button industry nation-wide. Finally, Koch also mentions attitudes towards Germans during WWI.
On pages 176-190 Koch remembers how the Pearl Button Factory ground up extra shells and sold them to be used as chicken feed. He again describes the machine he designed, his career at the factory, and manufacturing at the factory.
Pages 209-214 give more information about the making of buttons.
Pages 237b-242 address Koch’s memory about unions, strikes, and labor organizers at the Pearl Button Factory.
Pages 302-304 return to the subject of the Ho-Chunk. This time Koch mentions their role digging shells for the Pearl Button Factory.
Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher
Family of Robbie Moss
> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
> Citation: Robbie Moss, interviewed by Dr. Gretchen Lockett, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 1982, La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Robbie Moss was an African American woman that lived in La Crosse from the 1930s through to her death in 2004. She was born in Mississippi in 1912 and moved to La Crosse when she married Orby Moss, the grandson of Zacharias Louis Moss, one of the first Black American settlers in La Crosse. He settled here in 1852 and opened a barbershop. (This was just two years after La Crosse became established as a town, making the Moss family one of La Crosse’s pioneer families.)
Robbie was interviewed by Dr. Gretchen Lockett, a professor at UW- La Crosse, who is also African American. In the interview, Moss and Lockett talk about their experiences being African American in La Crosse between the early 1940s and 1982. They also cover major national and local events, such as WWII, workers’ strikes, and the Muriel Boatlift. Prejudice – theirs and others – and segregation is addressed throughout. There is also a fair amount of discussion about the relationship between La Crosse’s African American and Native American communities. Overall, this interview is a great window into what life was like as a minority in a small Midwestern city during the middle part of the 20th century. Although Moss and Lockett are the main “voices” in this oral history, there are others who speak as well, and everyone in the room has different experiences and different opinions about the racism they faced.
This oral history interview was recorded in 1982. It consists of two cassette tapes, each an hour long, but there is also a written transcript of the interview, which is 68 pages long.
There are many people talking in this interview. The interviewers are Dr. Gretchen Lockett, a professor at UWL, and an unidentified student. Robbie Moss is the primary person being interviewed, however her granddaughter and at least three other people are in the room as well, and they all talk. Because of this, the transcript can get confusing. Many times it lists people as, “GUEST,” “GUEST 2,” or “?????.” The person who typed the transcript often mixed up who was speaking. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you listen to the interview while you read the transcript. As you listen, you will begin to recognize the voices, making the whole interview much clearer.
Pages 1-7 are the part of the interview where Lockett and Moss talk about the Moss family and Robbie’s childhood. In addition, she talks about her experience being one of the few African Americans in La Crosse. In particular she remembers being refused service at places of business, segregation signs during World War II, Black soldiers at Fort McCoy (previously named Camp McCoy), and a La Crosse woman that was involved with in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Especially interesting is the part where Moss reflects upon her own prejudices against Native Americans.
On pages 10-22 the other people in the room begin to talk more. They share common experiences of racial discrimination. In particular, Moss remembers Black American soldiers being refused service in downtown La Crosse, which she compares with her own experience being turned away at a La Crosse drugstore. In addition, this section covers a number of very important local and national events. For example, Moss remembers the time during the 1980s when there were Cubans (many who were Black) in La Crosse due to the Mariel Boatlift. She remembers community backlash against Black Americans and Native Americans, and the La Crosse Telephone Company Strike of 1977. When the workers went on strike, the company responded by finding replacements – Black and white – from the South willing to come up and work. Robbie shares her theories of La Crosse’s prejudices at this time.
A very interesting part of this interview is the conversation about Black organizations in La Crosse, like the NAACP, the Black church in La Crosse, and Black settlements around the region, such as the one near Hillsboro. Nathan Smith is mentioned. He was a prominent Black American in La Crosse in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Pages 23-37 are all about racial attitudes and behavior in La Crosse and the Midwest. The group discusses their personal experiences and theories about race in La Crosse, but also the difference between racism in the Midwest and racism in the South. (This subject is especially interesting because for many white Midwesterners, northern racism is a subject they may have never considered. Here you get to learn about it by someone who directly experienced it.) They also talk some more about the racism Cubans faced in La Crosse in 1982, why they could not find jobs, and how the media reported about them.
On pages 37-50 Robbie Moss’s granddaughter shares her views and experiences as a Black American college students in La Crosse (mostly Viterbo, where she went to school). This turns into a discussion about religion and racism in the community. Moss weighs in as well, telling what it was like for her children in terms of school, dating, going to events like prom, and all the other typical things children do in general. This section also returns to the subject of the hardships for women of color, and what it was like to live in such a prominently white community. Robbie Moss’s memories of what it was like when famous Black musicians came to La Crosse is really interesting! (By the way, Duke Ellington, Peaches & Herb, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and Louie Armstrong – whom Robbie and her son met – all came to La Crosse during Moss’s lifetime.)
Pages 50-66 return to the subject of Black churches in La Crosse and employment challenges. Moss remembered not being able to get a job at Trane Company and the National Gauge and Register Company. They voice their different theories on the subject of jobs.
Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher
Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)
> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
> Citation: Edith J. Cartwright, interviewed by Patricia A. Mertens, in Patricia A. Mertens “Edith J. Cartwright: A Dean among Deans.” Master’s Thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 1971.
These two interviews are part of a seminar paper written by a UWL graduate student. This means that as a whole, “Edith J. Cartwright: A Dean among Deans,” is a secondary source. It is a research paper about Cartwright, who was the UWL Dean of Women from 1941-1969. (At this time, UWL was called “Wisconsin State University, La Crosse.”) The author, Patricia A. Mertens, interviewed Cartwright as a part of her research, and Appendix A in the thesis is a transcription of two interviews she had with Cartwright. The interviews are both primary sources. This finding aid focuses on only these interviews.
You can find the interviews on pages 31-55 of Mertens’ paper, “Edith J. Cartwright: A Dean among Deans.” The first interview (pgs. 31-46) includes just Mertens and Cartwright, but the second one (pgs. 47-55) also features Maurice Graff (previously UWL Vice President) and Dr. Robert Steuck (former UWL Assistant to the President and Dean of Men). The interviews were conducted in December 1970. There is no known audio of these interviews, however they are typed and easy to read.
Mertens’ seminar paper is also a great source. In it she argues that Cartwright was important to the La Crosse community and UWL campus, gives a detailed biography of Cartwright, and explains what UWL was like in the early years. (In the 1920s, Cartwright got her college degree from UWL in Physical Education, so Cartwright experienced UWL as a student and a faculty member.) In the paper, Merten gives Cartwright credit for increasing female enrollment and improving women’s college experience during her years as Dean of Women.
“A Conversation with Miss Cartwright,” pg. 31-46
Pages 31-35 review the early years of Cartwright’s career as Dean of Women at UWL, beginning in 1941. This includes the story of Cartwright’s education and how she got the position. In addition, the two discuss differences between student life in 1941 compared to 1970 in regards to rules about smoking, drinking, living off campus, women’s dress, and more. (By the way, UWL didn’t have any dorms in 1941!)
Pages 35-42 highlight specific events and topics important to Cartwright as Dean of Women, such as the Women’s Self Government Association (WSGA) and sororities. At one point Mertens asks about the close relationship Cartwright had with many students – both women and men – which leads to a conversation about the “town-gown” relationship in La Crosse. (This term simply means the relationship between the La Crosse community and the university campus.) In addition, Cartwright talks about UWL’s nationally recognized Physical Education Department, campus housing, and Cartwright’s role in getting women’s housing on campus in 1951. Cartwright tracked the story of how residence halls on campus changed as more women came to school at UWL.
Pages 43-46 cover Cartwright’s roles developing the UWL student Union and the Cartwright Center (built in 1959). She talks about what it was like working with Dean Graff, Dr. Cowley, Dean Gunning, and President Mitchell while planning the Center.
Cartwright and Associates
“A Conversation with Miss Cartwright and Associates,” pg. 47-56
Pages 47-51 cover Cartwright’s relationship with her co-workers. She worked very closely with Vice President Maurice Graff from 1941 to 1970. Graff shares his first impressions and some early memories of Cartwright. In return, Cartwright tells her first impressions of Graff. Mertens asked Robert Steuck (previous Dean of Men) to do the same. They also discuss their roles setting up the UWL campus to be what it is today.
On pages 51-55 all three talk about the planning of the new student union, the Cartwright Center. Graff also tells a story about a time when in the 1940s, there were only three phones on the whole campus! Steuk also discusses Cartwright’s statewide fame.
Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher