Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History | Wisconsin Historical Society

General Information

Current Issue of the Wisconsin Magazine of History

Winter 2015-2016 Issue, Volume 99, Number 3

Table of Contents

The Unexpected Belle La Follette

By Nancy Unger
EnlargeBelle La Follette, 1921

The Unexpected Belle La Follette

Belle La Follette was a lifelong advocate of fresh air and exercise. Here she walks Bud, the family’s English bulldog, in 1921.

Belle La Follette has been largely hailed as the “little woman” behind the great man. This account reveals the depth and range of her interests, ambitions, and activism, and the contributions she made to meaningful progressive reform. Much more than the wife of a three-time governor Bob La Follette and mother of four, she was the first female graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, a talented editor and journalist, a passionate crusader for the rights of women and minorities, and an influential voice in support of world peace and disarmament. As editor of La Follette’s Magazine, she used her pen to wield change across the nation as she wrote about women’s rights and racial politics before women had the right to vote and decades before the civil rights era. She also spoke publically for various causes and was the first woman to stump for her husband in a presidential bid. A closer look reveals an unexpected Belle La Follette: a passionate feminist dedicated to peace, civil rights, and making her nation a better place through a variety of innovative reforms. 

The Mothers of Chapter 115: How Wisconsin Mandated Special Education for All Children with Disabilities

By Barbara Pelligrini, Margaret (Peg) Olsen, Frances (Fran) Bicknell, Elaine Keller, Donna Mutschler, and Suzanne Kendrick
EnlargeGovernor Patrick Lucey

The Mothers of Chapter 115: How Wisconsin Mandated Special Education for All Children with Disabilities

Governor Patrick Lucey greets guests and children at the signing of SB-185 (later called Chapter 115) on August 1, 1973.

The signing of Chapter 115 on August 1, 1973, was arguably the most significant moment in Wisconsin’s special education history in the twentieth century. Today, it mandates special education for all disabled students in the state of Wisconsin. Before 1973, even though the Wisconsin Constitution guaranteed a free public education to all students, school districts were not obligated by law to provide such programs. In 1972, State Senator James Devitt proposed a comprehensive rewrite of special education legislation. As none of the legislators knew anything about children with disabilities or special education, Devitt appointed five mothers of disabled children and two special education administrators to staff the writing team. The dedicated mothers on the team not only changed special education in the state of Wisconsin, but had influence nationwide as the new law helped create federal legislation guaranteeing special education throughout the US two years later.

Wisconsin's Gas Engines

By Carrie Meyer

Wisconsin’s Gas Engines

The gasoline engine in this farm power house is belted to an overhead line shaft, ca. 1913. It thus provided power for multiple machines, including a corn sheller, feed grinder, cream separator, and washing machine.

During the early twentieth century, Wisconsin was a central location for the production of internal combustion engines that were used primarily for farm and domestic work. The top producers of such engines were located in Wisconsin: Fairbanks Morse in Beloit and International Harvester in Milwaukee. As technology improved, gas engines were used for a variety of purposes: from operating circular saws and drill presses to powering cream separators and washing machines. National magazines such as Gas Review and American Thresherman were published out of Madison. Eventually the story of the automobile as it evolved in and around Detroit became so big that the story of Wisconsin’s early prominence in gas engines was nearly forgotten. Nevertheless, as the main producer of gas engines at the turn of the century, Wisconsin was a virtual hotbed of gas engine technology—especially as it applied to a wide variety of farm and rural workshop uses. These engines began to ease farm burdens in Wisconsin and in rural communities across America, automating tasks that had once been labor- and time-intensive and changing the face of farm and home labor to the benefit of many. 

Beyond the Spectacle: Photography and Milwaukee's Open Housing Marches

By Mark Speltz
EnlargeYouth Council

Beyond the Spectacle: Photography and Milwaukee’s Open Housing Marches

Youth Council members carry an American flag while marching to Wauwatosa on August 28, 1966. Duane Tolliver (center, light shirt) and Carol Butler (left) are in front, and Father James Groppi (black sunglasses) is in the second row.

The open housing marches of 1967-1968 represent one of the longest and most divisive campaigns in Milwaukee's civil rights history. Yet even today, conceptions of the struggle are shaped by the way it was portrayed in the mainstream press, particularly through the photographer's lens. In the Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel, the deep-rooted issue of housing discrimination was overshadowed by spectacular pictures of raucous and violent counterdemonstrations. In contrast, black press publications like the Milwaukee Star and even national publications Jet and Ebony highlighted the empowering, peaceful marches of Youth Council demonstrators and their supporters, many of whom were connected to Father James Groppi's Saint Boniface Catholic Church. Mark Speltz's article explores the multiplicity of photographic views of the movement, widening our critical perspective and challenging our understanding of this significant moment in our state's-and nation's-history.

Want a Subscription to the Wisconsin Magazine of History?

Then become a Wisconsin Historical Society member!

Learn More

Wisconsin History Tour.