Working Lives Project Grants

Work is a word, an idea, and an experience that has meaning for all of us. Here are some projects that received WHC grants as part of the Working Lives Project between 2014 and 2019:

An Inquiry into Skill in Wood Printing Type Production |  WHC grant awarded to Two Rivers Historical Society

How much skill was required to run the printing machines of old? The Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, run by the Two Rivers Historical Society, is dedicated to the history of American printing. For this project, an original die-stamping machine from the collection was put to work in simulated industrial production conditions to help visitors understand the skill involved in using it.


Nothin’ But Nets: The Legacy of Commercial Fishing in Port Washington   |  WHC grant awarded to the Port Washington Historical Society

Commercial fishing was once the dominant industry in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Today the stories of the men, women and children who worked fishing on Lake Michigan is being lost.  With this WHC grant, the Port Washington Historical produced an exhibition and public programs chronicling their local history and contributions to Wisconsin’s economy.


Asylum: Out of the Shadows  |  WHC grant awarded to the History Museum at the Castle

What was it like to work in a mental health asylum in Wisconsin? A WHC grant helped to fund a groundbreaking exhibition called ‘Asylum: Out of the Shadows’ about the Outagamie County Asylum for the Insane. A section of the exhibit focused on healthcare work, including the forced labor of former patients and the evolution of the modern profession. Public events were particularly successful at engaging area residents in conversations, shedding light on the institution’s role in the region, acting as ‘truth and reconciliation’ for past abuses, personalizing the stories of the residents and employees, and hopefully helping to remove stigmas around mental illness.


Working Lives: A Look at Water, Transportation, Construction and Trades in the Slinger Area    |  WHC grant awarded to the Slinger School District

For two consecutive years, Slinger High School students did research, visited local sites, and conducted interviews to create a ‘workers history’ of the Slinger area. The student project focused on the jobs and work done in the fields of transportation, construction and trades and culminated in a Slinger Area History & Culture Night open to the public.


Making a Hometown–Life in Neenah’s Progressive Era |   WHC grant awarded to the Neenah Historical Society   

Many of the ‘hometown’ features of Neenah, Wisconsin got their start in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An exhibit called ‘Making a Hometown – Life in Neenah’s Progressive Era’ was designed to encourage visitors to consider what it takes to build community. The exhibit and programs included stories of industrial leaders who developed successful community organizations, the changes of the Industrial Age, and what has helped Neenah face past and current challenges.


Joyce Westerman, Wisconsin Women, and the All American Girls Professional Baseball League  |   WHC grant awarded to Bob Kann and Arts Wisconsin

Joyce Westerman from Kenosha, Wisconsin was one of the more than 550 women who played professional baseball in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGBPL) between 1943-1954. For the 75th anniversary of the founding of the leagues, historian Bob Kann traveled the state sharing the fun stories and real details of the working lives of Joyce and the other 36 women from Wisconsin who played in the AAGBPL.


The Work of Art: Exploring the Intersection of Commerce, the Arts & Life |   WHC grant awarded to TAPPIT/New Works

People who earn a living in ‘the arts’ include solitary sculptors to roving theater companies, symphony musicians to illustrators. The professional arts world is shaped by economic realities and cultural myths that are rarely discussed by the artists themselves. For this project, a Madison-based theater celebrated its 30th anniversary with a new play that examined the “the work of art.”


Lebel Skiff Boatbuilding |   WHC grant awarded to Bayfield Historical Society

For commercial fisherman plying their trade in the waters of Lake Superior, necessity governed craft.  There was no separation between work and daily life–it was all one.  This project explored the tools, techniques and purpose of building a small, flat-bottom skiff used to fish herring and its larger meaning, history and context.


Culture Work:  Narratives of Production in a “Post-Industrial” City |   WHC grant awarded to ArtWorks for Milwaukee

High school, college and graduate students worked under the leadership of an historian from the Milwaukee School for Engineering (MSOE) and artist Raoul Deal from Peck School of the Arts for this sweeping effort to honor the contributions of Latino immigrants to Milwaukee history. WHC grant funds were used for the collection of oral histories, which informed the design of large mural depicting key moments and people in Wisconsin’s Latino history.


Prisoners of War: Filling the Labor Shortage on the Homefront |   WHC grant awarded to Reedsburg Area Historical Society

600,000 Prisoners of War were used during World War II to do jobs in canning factories, lumber yards and agricultural fields. At the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, this project explored the impact POW camps had on local communities, including Reedsburg, Wisconsin.  WHC funds supported research into this history and the production of a traveling exhibit.


A Pure Woman’s Victory! The private life and public trials of Lavinia Goodell, Wisconsin’s first woman lawyer  |   WHC grant awarded to Rock County Historical Society 

Lavinia Goodell was Wisconsin’s first woman lawyer and a pioneer in the 19th century women’s rights, temperance and prison reform movement. She left behind a trove of letters, diaries, essays and articles on topics from marriage to suffrage to equal rights. WHC funds enabled the creation of a digital biography of her life that includes some of the challenges she faced as a female practicing law, her jailhouse school and temperance work.


Gendered Differences of Abilities and Milwaukee Muslim Immigrants  |   WHC grant awarded to Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition

By acknowledging the cultural barriers Muslim women face in the workplace, as well as the cultural stigma around physical and mental disabilities, the WHC funded conversations that touched on issues of voluntary, professional, obligatory and private labors. This project created an open dialogue about the experiences, cultural beliefs, needs and experiences of Muslims who have differences of abilities or who are caregivers in the Greater Milwaukee Area.


Beyond the Ingenue |   WHC grant awarded to Music Theatre of Madison

With WHC funding, a series of new musical theatre songs highlighting women’s issues have been created to encourage critical reflection about the portrayal of women in entertainment and their contributions to society and music. The songs were performed for schools, libraries, senior groups and local justice organizations to initiate conversations about motherhood, workplace equity, aging, and more.


Latino Wisconsin  |   WHC grant awarded to Milwaukee Film

As the fastest growing population in Wisconsin, Latinos are changing the face and future of the state. This new WHC-funded film highlights the energy that this diversity brings to business, agriculture, and manufacturing industries.