When it comes to people who have made Milwaukee what it is today, names like Solomon Juneau, Byron Kilbourn, George Walker, or Frank Zeilder come to mind. But they’re not the only people that shared the vision, ingenuity, and tenacity to make change. And as Abigail Adams said, we must "remember the ladies."
Women like Ardie Clark Halyard, Beulah Brinton, Mabel Watson Raimey, or Milwaukee’s founding mother Josette Juneau all worked hard to make Milwaukee a better place for all of its residents. But their stories aren’t shared as widely.
One place you can learn about these women is in November's Milwaukee Magazine. Writer Anna Lardinois, along with Matthew Prigge, wrote about 11 of Milwaukee’s most influential women.
Lardinois says that she was generally familiar with some of the women featured after going on a tour of famous women's graves at the Forest Home Cemetery, "so I had exposure to almost all of these women before through that tour, but then I got to know them much more intimately with this article."
However, while researching these influential women, Lardinois found it frustrating that all of the work these women had dedicated their lives to has not moved forward — like Ardie Clark Halyard.
Clark Halyard and her husband Wilber opened Columbia Savings & Loan Association (S&L) in 1924. They opened S&L to help black families become homeowners amidst the obstacles of racism, segregation and redlining in Milwaukee. While S&L still operates today, Lardinois notes that there are no other similar operations owned by black Milwaukeeans, and significant racial disparities continue to hinder homeownership and economic opportunities for the city's black residents.
"As I was going through and doing the research, it struck me in many ways that things had not changed so much since these pivotal women were making strides," says Lardinois. However, "in each case of the women I covered, they were all very hard working, determined women who did not let obstacles hold them back. And I admire that a great deal."
Lardinois joined Lake Effect's Audrey Nowakowski to discuss more about the women who made Milwaukee: