Women's History | BIG History | Wisconsin Historical Society

Women's History | BIG History

Women's History Month

Women’s History in Wisconsin

The Society is celebrating BIG moments in Wisconsin history, including the significant impact that women have had on the history of the state. Learn about this impact through the articles, artifacts, and other important items below that help tell the story of women in Wisconsin.

Overlooked Women in Wisconsin History

Iconic Wisconsin Women

Wisconsin women have made many contributions to state and national history, yet our textbooks often reduce women's history to the campaign for suffrage at the expense of everything else. While the right to vote was indeed an important victory for women, it's just one of many issues that women have sought to change. Wisconsin women of many races, classes and ethnic groups left their mark on our history.

This article explores the stories of 12 Wisconsin women overlooked by history. We hope it inspires you to take a deeper dive into the lives of the amazing women who shaped, and continue to shape, our state.

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Explore More Women's History

Learn more about women’s history in Wisconsin and beyond through the historical essays below.

Full-length portrait of two Ho-Chunk women standing on either side of an older Ho-Chunk woman who is sitting. Each woman is wearing a long skirt, a blouse, and jewelry, and the woman sitting also has a shawl on her lap. Both standing women are resting a hand on the seated woman's shoulders.

Women’s History in Wisconsin

Formal studio portrait of Belle Case La Follette wearing a black lace dress. This photograph was taken about 1885, the year in which her husband, Robert M. La Follette, Sr., first went to Washington, D.C., as a Republican congressman. It is probably a dress that she wore to official parties and gatherings in the capital.

The Women’s Suffrage Movement

A woman at International Harvester's Tractor Works looks through a filing cabinet or a card catalog

Women’s Hidden Work in Wisconsin

Carte-de-visite portrait of Cordelia Harvey wearing a hooded cape.

Wisconsin Women in the Civil War

More Historical Essays

A League of their Own | Ho-poe-kaw | Caroline Quarlls |  Helen Farnsworth Mears | Lorine Niedecker | Laura Ingalls Wilder | Kate Pelham Newcomb | Zona Gale | Mildred Fish-Harnack | Georgia O'KeeffeDickey Chapelle | Ruth De Young Kohler | Golda Mier | Beth Heiden | Ada Deer | Ardie Clark-Halyard | Francis Willard | Mathilde Anneke | Louise Williams | Aunt Mary Ann 

Fascinating Items from the Society's Historical Collections

The Society has over 20,000 items related to women’s history available to explore in our online collection, and this collection is always growing. Explore some of these amazing items and the stories behind them below.

Land of the Freed-up Woman American flag banner made from bras, 1971

Engelman's Bra Flag

Rosie the Riveter Coveralls

Rosie the Riveter Coveralls

Ho-Chunk beading on reebok shoes

Ho-Chunk Beaded Shoes

More Historical Items

Forward Statue | Rosaline Peck Violin | Suzy Hamilton Olympic Shoes | Sue Ann Thompson Inauguration Gown | British Open Glove | Laverne and Shirley costume | Miss Annie Mae’s Church Hat

Compelling Images from the Society's Historical Collections

Dickey Chapelle, photographer, on the same Milwaukee beach where she learned to swim as a young girl. She was covering 'Operation Inland Seas' celebrating the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. She is holding her camera and there is a tank in the background. This is her favorite photograph of herself at work.

Women & War

Poster issued by the Milwaukee County League of Women Voters that graphically urges women to vote.


Female worker inspecting small plastic and metal parts at International Harvester's West Pullman Works.

Women at Work

Hmong gardener kneeling and looking into the camera at the Northside Farmer’s Market. She is wearing a white hat, light blue shirt, royal blue apron, green gloves, black pants and black sandals. On the apron is the logo for 'The 12 Yang Clan Leaders of Wisconsin, Inc.' In her left hand is a bouquet of flowers, and flowers in buckets surround her.

Wisconsin Women

More Historical Images

Women in Politics | Women's Suffrage Map | Anti-Women's Suffrage Poster | Votes for Women buttons | Actresses
Explore the Women's Suffrage Centennial History in Wisconsin

The Fight for Suffrage Continued

On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment went into effect and citizens of the United States could no longer be denied the right to vote on the basis of gender. Yet, the effort to achieve voting equality for women started decades earlier and for many Americans, the passage of the 19th amendment was just the beginning of the struggle for voting rights.

Explore videos, essays, artifacts, and photographs of the movement and struggles that shaped the movement to take the US one step closer to a true democracy. Learn more about the women who pioneered this movement in Wisconsin and see the materials they used to fight for their right to vote.

Discover the exhibits and educational materials that delve deep into the history of the movement and how we can view it through the lens of today and our continued fight for suffrage.

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Support the Preservation of Women's History

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Explore Wisconsin's History


History is a story with many voices, always growing and evolving — a story we tell together.

Let us know if there are ways we could improve!