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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Wisconsin's Chief Feminist

The 1840s were full of utopian dreamers who thought women's rights should be legally protected. During the 1850s a flood of new immigrants, political corruption, and an economic crash dampened much of the utopian energy in Wisconsin, and the Civil War largely dislodged it from the popular mind for an entire generation.

The momentum for women's rights in the decades after the war was kept alive largely through the labors of Emma Brown (1827-1889). She was the first successful woman editor and publisher in Wisconsin, producing the weekly paper "Wisconsin Chief" out of her office in Fort Atkinson. She had started the paper in 1849 in new York, and it became the country's longest-running temperance paper. In its pages she supported not only the temperance movement but also women's suffrage, exposed harsh conditions in factories and prisons, and argued passionately for women's roles in public life. She produced the weekly paper almost singlehandedly from 1866 to 1889.

You can read about her and other early women journalists in Wisconsin in this article by Theodora Youmans. Later this spring we hope to have Brown's "Wisconsin Chief" available online in Turning Points in Wisconsin History.

:: Posted in Odd Lives on March 23, 2005
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