Wisconsin Women Making History

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Years of research and teamwork paid off: students, educators, and all of us now have an online resource for Wisconsin Women’s History. The site highlights the stories and accomplishments of the remarkable women who have contributed to Wisconsin history.

Women like Vel Phillips, Dickey Chapelle, Betsy Thunder, and Gerda Lerner, these women who have stepped into leadership roles are profiled together in one resource. Some of the names are more known, like Belle LaFollette, while others have very fewer primary sources from which to create a full portrait. This one-of-a-kind Wisconsin resource makes it easier for young people to learn, and educators to share, our state’s rich history.


Throughout 2014 and 2015, libraries and community organizations hosted Wisconsin Women Making History film discussions of the following films:

Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams
Vel Phillips achieved many firsts. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from the UW-Madison Law School, the first African-American judge in Wisconsin, and the first woman and African-American to be elected Wisconsin Secretary of State. This documentary is the first to tell her story.

Wisconsin’s Nazi Resistance- The Mildred Fish-Harnack Story – This WPT documentary takes a provocative look at a Milwaukee-born, University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate who became the only American woman ever executed on the direct order of Adolf Hitler for her involvement in the Berlin resistance movement. (60 minutes long)

Emma Toft: One With Nature – This WPT documentary explores the work of the environmental pioneer from Door County who was willing to fight for the land and the respect of plants and animals.

A Path Appears – The creators of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide present a new film that goes to Colombia, Haiti, Kenya, and the United States to uncover the harshest forms of gender-based oppression and human rights violations, and the solutions being implemented to combat them.

MAKERS: Women Who Make America – This documentary series tells the remarkable story of the modern women’s movement, arguably the most sweeping social revolution in American history.  The six films available for screening include ‘Women in Business,’ ‘Women in Comedy,’ ‘Women in Hollywood,’ ‘Women in Politics,’ ‘Women in Space,’ and ‘Women in War.’

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines – This film is fun, witty, and super-powerful. It looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation. (55 minutes long)


Wisconsin Women Making History is partnership of the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Wisconsin Historical Society, the Women’s Studies Consortium of the UW System, the Gender and Women’s Studies Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Media Lab, and Wisconsin Public Television.