If you haven’t noticed, this blog has a soft spot for historical women from the Midwest. And there just so happens to be a cluster of names that have close ties to my favorite state of all: Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, WordPress won’t let me directly embed my pretty story map. Click the image for the interactive version or just scroll down for the list.
Harriet Bell Merrill
Birth: 1863; Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Death: Either April 10, 1914 or April 10, 1915; Illinois
Occupation: Limnologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Notable journeys: Conducted solo fieldwork in Brazil, Venezula, Trinidad, British Guiana, and Curacao in 1902-1903. Visited Brazil again in 1909.
Notable work: The Anandrous Journey: The Discovery of Revealing Letters to a Mentor
Quote: “Most people find the low heels and broad soles of this lady’s shoes objects of curiosity. It is possible that I could pay my expenses by exhibiting them as a new trend for women.”
Eliza Ruhamah Schidmore
Birth: October 14, 1856; Clinton, Iowa (spent childhood in Madison, Wisconsin)
Death: November 3, 1928; Geneva, Switzerland
Occupation: Writer, photographer, geographer, first female National Geographic board member and probably first woman to have photos published in the magazine
Notable journeys: In 1883, visited Alaska and was one of the first tourists to accidentally sail into Glacier Bay. Between 1885 and 1922, regularly accompanied her brother, a career diplomat, on assignments in the Far East and wrote for various publications. Visited Japan several times, as well as Java, China, and India.
Notable work: Jinrikisha Days in Japan; Java, the Garden of the East; China, the Long-Lived Empire; Winter India; As the Hague Ordains. Planted the iconic cherry trees in Washington, D.C., in 1885. A couple of her photos.
Quote: “That order of tourist known as the ‘globe-trotter’ is not a welcome apparition to the permanent foreign resident. His generous and refined hospitality has been so often abused, and its recipients so often show a half-contemptuous condescension to their remote and uncomprehended hosts, that letters of introduction are looked upon with dread.”
Delia “Mickie” Denning Akeley
Birth: December 22, 1869; Beaver Dam, Wisconsin (lied about her age, so birth year is often incorrectly listed as 1875)
Death: May 22, 1970; Daytona Beach, Florida
Occupation: Explorer, author, museum curator, public lecturer
Notable journeys: From 1906-1907, accompanied her husband, a noted taxidermist, to Africa to kill elephants for display at the Museum of Natural History in New York. On another expedition from 1909-1911, joined Theodore Roosevelt’s Smithsonian team. In 1924, returned to Africa solo to live among forest pygmy tribes and explore the desert region between Kenya and Ethiopia on behalf of the Brooklyn Museum.
Notable works: Jungle Portraits; JT JR: the biography of an African monkey
Quote: “In these days of high speed, skyscrapers, subways, and sublimations, we have lost of the art of seeing simply. We look at men and women as individuals, as romances, or sociological cases. We no longer look at them as manifestations of Nature, like trees twisted by the wind, or leopards with hides mottled in conformity with jungle shade.”
Emily “Mickey” Hahn
Birth: January 15, 1905; St. Louis, Missouri
Death: February 18, 1997; New York City
Occupation: Novelist, magazine writer, biographer
Notable journeys: Two-year solo journey to the Belgian Congo starting in 1931. Spent eight years in China under Japanese occupation throughout WWII. Split her time between New York and England for the rest of her life.
Notable works: 50+ books, including Congo Solo, China to Me, and No Hurry to Get Home
Quote: “I have deliberately chosen the uncertain path whenever I had the chance.”
Wisconsin link: Was the first female to obtain a mining engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in 1926
Dickey Chapelle (Georgette Louise Meyer)
Birth: March 14, 1919; Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Death: November 4, 1965; south of Chu Lai, Vietnam (first female American reporter killed on a battlefield)
Occupation: Stunt pilot, war photographer
Notable journeys: Began career in 1941 by moving to Panama as a photographer to follow her then-husband, a sailor. Eventually embedded with the Marines at Iwo Jima and Okinawa during WWII. Later covered the Korean War, the uprising in Hungary, and the Vietnam War, where she was killed by shrapnel.
Notable work: Large collection of photos; More here; What’s a Woman Doing Here? A Combat Reporter’s Report on Herself
Quote: “I grew up in the heart of the United States, and I believed that I could do anything I really wanted to do. And I still believe it. In the first place, I hope you will never say it [the name of the United States] without its sense of its uniqueness. You have just defined Americanism. Because nowhere else in the world, and I’ve now worked in my 44th country, no where else in the world, can a woman about seventeen — or an old lady in her 40s like I am — no where else in the world can she say, ‘I can do anything I really want to do.'”
Birth: July 28, 1879; Brooklyn, New York
Death: December 22, 1966; Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: Teacher, women’s rights activist; co-founder of the National Woman’s Party
Notable journeys: Moved to Berlin for graduate school in 1906 and visited England in 1909, where she met British and Scottish suffragists. Dropped out of school to join the movement full time through 1912. Followed Alice Paul back to the United States and helped lead the women’s rights movement there.
Notable work: Organized several protests and events to advance women’s suffrage; arrested six times and spent more time in prison than any other U.S. suffragist
Quote: “It is unthinkable that a national government which represents women should ignore the issue of the right of all women to political freedom.”
Wisconsin link: In 2006, the Lucy Burns Institute was established in Middleton. Its mission: “We believe in the power of information to transform lives and politics, and we’re committed to making the most knowledge available to the greatest number of people. We are a community of users dedicated to fairness and openness in politics, on both sides of the aisle. We welcome responsible, knowledge-building contributions from anyone who wants to participate.”