Society of Friends

Click the image to learn more. The Milwaukee Friends Meeting place of worship is located on the Anita and Jacob Koenen Land Preserve along the Milwaukee River.

Members of the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, were among the early Yankee-Yorker settlers in Southeastern Wisconsin in the 1830s.[1] Over a century later, the current Milwaukee Monthly Meeting—the Society of Friends congregation in Milwaukee—was founded.

The Milwaukee Friends Meeting, like its counterpart in Madison, arose from the pacifist movements of the 1920s and 1930s.[2] Bolstered by traditional Quaker pacifism, Milwaukee Friends began meeting in homes and borrowed spaces in the early 1940s.[3] In 1950, the Milwaukee Monthly Meeting was regionally recognized as part of the Illinois and Western Yearly Meetings.[4] The Milwaukee congregation is now part of the Upper Midwest’s Northern Yearly Meeting.[5] In 1964, a worship group affiliated with the Milwaukee Meeting began in Waukesha County.[6] Both groups met in temporary spaces, including YMCAs and church buildings, until the opening of the Milwaukee Meeting’s Riverwest Meetinghouse in 1984.[7] As of 2010, the two congregations included 163 adherents.[8]

Although small in number, Milwaukee’s Quakers have had a lasting impact on social and environmental concerns. In addition to coordinating with the American Friends Service Committee, the Milwaukee Meeting has counted several peace and social justice activists among its members.[9] In 1976, as part of its search for a permanent meetinghouse, the Milwaukee Meeting agreed to establish a nature preserve on the former farmland owned by Milwaukee schoolteacher Anita Koenen.[10] Maintained and used by the Quaker and local communities since its founding in 1980, the Anita and Jacob Koenen Land Preserve fosters indigenous vegetation along the Milwaukee River.[11] The Quaker Meetinghouse, expanded in 2001, is located on the Preserve.[12]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ Bettie Aldrich Eisendrath, “Milwaukee Meeting, Religious Society of Friends: A Testimony of Memory,” [1], Friends Papers, Milwaukee Small Collections 10, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries, Archives Department.
  2. ^ Eisendrath, “Milwaukee Meeting”; Northern Yearly Meeting, “Faith and Practice,” Preliminary Compilation, May 9, 2013, 12, accessed September 14, 2016,, now available as Northern Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends“Faith and Practice,” (2017),, last accessed July 21, 2017.
  3. ^ Northern Yearly Meeting, “Faith and Practice,” 13; Eisendrath, [1]; “Invitation to Worship,” Milwaukee Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) website, last modified November 7, 2009, accessed September 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Eisendrath, “Milwaukee Meeting,” [1].
  5. ^ The Milwaukee Monthly Meeting was a member of both the Illinois and Northern Yearly Meetings from the founding of the Northern Yearly Meeting in 1975, until it left the Illinois Yearly Meeting in 2007. The congregation rescinded its membership in the Indiana-based Western Yearly Meeting in 1958. For more on these regional memberships, see Northern Yearly Meeting, “Faith and Practice”; Eisendrath, [1]; and “Minutes of the Illinois Yearly Meeting,” 133rd Annual Session, July 25-29, 2007, [7], accessed September 14, 2016.
  6. ^ Eisendrath, “Milwaukee Meeting,” [5].
  7. ^ Eisendrath, “Milwaukee Meeting,” [1-2]. As of 2013, the Waukesha-based Westside Worship Group continued to meet in a school classroom. “Westside Friends Worship Group State of Society 2013,” Northern Yearly Meeting website, accessed September 16, 2016.
  8. ^ Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, “Metro-Area Membership Report: Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI, Metropolitan Statistical Area,” (Association of Religion Data Archives, 2010), accessed September 14, 2016.
  9. ^ For examples of coordination with AFSC, see Eisendrath, “Milwaukee Meeting,” [2-4]. Prominent peace and social justice activist members include Bill Brown and Ian Harris. See Jan Uebelherr, “Brown Helped Open Milwaukee’s First Quaker Meeting House,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 23, 2014; Jan Christensen, “Neighbor Spotlight: Dr. Ian Harris,” Riverwest Currents, March 2010, accessed September 19, 2016.
  10. ^Invitation to Worship.”
  11. ^Invitation to Worship”; Christensen, “Neighbor Spotlight.”
  12. ^Invitation to Worship.”

For Further Reading

Northern Yearly Meeting. “Faith and Practice.” 2017,, last accessed July 21, 2017.


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