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Ellen Bravo, pictured here, was a founding member of the Milwaukee chapter of 9to5 and became the national executive director in 1993.
Milwaukee is the national headquarters for 9to5, the National Association of Working Women. The organization also has chapters in Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Jose. 9to5 was founded in 1973 in Boston by Ellen Cassedy and Karen Nussbaum, two secretaries at Harvard University. They aimed to improve women’s position in the workplace through the… Read More

BloodCenter of Wisconsin

A 1949 photograph of the Junior League's Blood Center storefront on Wells Street just a few years after its founding.
In 1947, the JUNIOR LEAGUE of MILWAUKEE founded a blood center to deliver blood from donors to patients. By 2012, the BloodCenter of Wisconsin annually provided more than 300,000 units of blood to medical centers in 29 counties. It also investigates health treatments and conducts scientific research. For example, in collaboration with other research centers,… Read More

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee

In 2016, Milwaukee was one of several American cities that participated in Navy Week. In this photograph, a serviceman plays basketball with young campers at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee began in 1887 in the basement of the Plymouth Congregational Church, then located at the corner of Milwaukee and Wells. Since the late nineteenth century it has served the needs of young people in the Milwaukee area and has played an important role in the national Boys… Read More

COA Youth and Family Centers

The COA opened their Golden Center on Burleigh Street in 2005. The 54,000 square foot facility features a wide variety of health, education, and recreation facilities for children of all ages and their families.
The Children’s Outing Society was formed in 1906 by Florence Friend, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Black Kander, and other women from the Personal Relief Society, a social service organization active in Milwaukee’s Jewish community. The Society changed its name to the Children’s Outing Association (COA) in 1930. COA’s initial purpose was to improve the physical well-being of… Read More

Community-Based Organizations

The Walnut Way Conservation Corp. transforms vacant lots into community gardens, many of them cared for by area students.
Although community-based organizations are active in cities around the United States, they have received relatively little attention from historians. The historical scholarship that does exist about community-based organizations tends to treat them solely within their local contexts rather than as a larger phenomenon worthy of sustained study or comparison across places. Community-based organizations is a… Read More

Growing Power, Inc.

Will Allen fishes for tilapia in the Growing Power aquaponics system in 2008.
Growing Power, Inc. was a Milwaukee farm and non-profit organization that modeled 21st century urban agriculture. It was part farm, part idea factory. It earned international acclaim with founder and CEO Will Allen’s, “Good Food Revolution.” Through Allen’s respected community food security leadership, Growing Power shaped the national conversation about urban agriculture and food justice… Read More

Historic Milwaukee, Inc.

Historic Milwaukee, Inc. and its crew of volunteers offer walking tours of Milwaukee's architecture to promote preservation efforts.
Like people all over the United States, by the late 1960s, Milwaukeeans were disillusioned with the continuous construction and expansion since World War II and were beginning to rediscover the value of older buildings. Historic Milwaukee, Inc., which is dedicated to education about and advocacy for the city’s architectural heritage, grew out of this movement… Read More

International Institute of Wisconsin

On June 20, 2018, the International Institute of Wisconsin sponsored a World Refugee Celebration at Zeidler Park to increase refugee awareness in Milwaukee and celebrate refugees' cultures.
For almost a century, the International Institute of Wisconsin has had the mission of helping immigrants establish themselves in the Milwaukee community. The International Institute of Milwaukee County was founded in 1923 in Milwaukee by Edna H. Merrell under the auspices of the YOUNG WOMEN’S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (YWCA). It was also later affiliated with American… Read More

Junior League of Milwaukee

Three Junior League members clean their meeting space located on the corner of Mason Street and Milwaukee Avenue in 1930.
Social worker Nell Alexander and future Girl Scout organizer Alice Chester founded Milwaukee’s local chapter of the Junior League in 1915. Organized as a nonprofit, voluntary association, the Junior League’s mission is educating young women on contemporary social issues and training them to develop leadership skills and serve in the community. Milwaukee Junior Leaguers, or… Read More

Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Fair Housing Council was born out of the Civil Rights Movement and open housing demonstrations of the 1960s. A large group of such demonstrators are pictured here outside St. Boniface Church.
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council (MMFHC) promotes fair housing and creation of racially integrated communities in the Milwaukee metropolitan area and throughout Wisconsin. Fair housing refers to the opportunity to secure housing and housing-related services such as mortgage loans and home insurance free from discrimination based on race and other protected classes that several… Read More

Milwaukee NAACP

Members of the NAACP's Milwaukee branch gather for their annual dinner, as seen here in 1958.
The Milwaukee branch of the NAACP has functioned as one of the city’s leading civil rights organization since 1919. Led for its first half century by prominent middle-class African American professionals, including Wilbur Halyard, Ardie Halyard, and James W. Dorsey, the local chapter battled racial discrimination in employment, housing, education, entertainment, and policing through political… Read More

Milwaukee Urban League

A 1977 photograph of Milwaukee Urban League executive director Wesley Scott.
The Milwaukee Urban League, an affiliate of the National Urban League, was established in 1919 to help a small but growing African American population in the city gain access to employment, decent housing, and community services. Initially started as an information clearinghouse and community advocacy center, the League later helped build institutions to serve the… Read More


The Layton Art Gallery, which was constructed in 1888 with funding from Frederick Layton, was the foundational collection for the current Milwaukee Art Museum.
Historian Robert Bremner declares in his seminal work on the history of American philanthropy that, “Americans have regarded themselves as an unusually philanthropic people.” The history of philanthropic giving in the city of Milwaukee mirrors Bremner’s characterization of American society, but the story in Milwaukee is an often-underemphasized element in the city’s development as an… Read More

Rethinking Schools

In its early years, Rethinking Schools was headquartered in a small office of the Milwaukee Peace Action Center. Pictured from the foreground to background are Jennifer Morales, Mike Trokan, Sharon Matthias, and Barbara Miner.
Rethinking Schools is a nonprofit, independent publisher of educational material, most known for its magazine, which is also named Rethinking Schools. It promotes anti-racist, multicultural education in elementary and secondary teaching and in educational policy making. It is a sharp critic of standardized testing and is a strong proponent of public education and social justice.… Read More


The letters ZNP on the insignia of these young women's uniforms indicate their membership in the Polish National Alliance scouting program.
Scouting has played an important role in the lives of young people in the Milwaukee area since the national movement began in the early twentieth century. Viewing scouting as a vehicle to teach skills and instill values, a variety of local organizations, including schools, churches, synagogues, civic groups, and firehouses have sponsored scout “troops.” Most… Read More


The Abraham Lincoln House, pictured here shortly after it opened in 1910, was financed with proceeds from Lizzie Black Kander's successful publication, "The Settlement Cookbook."
The first American settlement house was established in New York City in 1886. In contrast to existing charitable organizations that dispensed material aid and advice to the needy, in settlement houses reformers lived in the neighborhoods they served with cultural programming and community amenities. College-educated men and women joined the settlement house movement around the… Read More

Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers

Since opening in 1969, the Sixteenth Street Community Health Care Centers have expanded to eight locations throughout the Greater Milwaukee area. Their Chavez Drive location is pictured here.
  Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC) have provided free and affordable health care services to low-income patients since 1969. That year, neighborhood organizers opened a small, volunteer-run health clinic at the corner of South 16th Street and West Greenfield Avenue. Since its earliest days, SSCHC has worked to serve the needs of the South… Read More

United Migrant Opportunity Services, Inc. (UMOS)

Migrant laborers leave a cucumber field in Portage, Wisconsin in 1967 as part of a strike organized by the Obreros Unidos labor union. Obreros Unidos leader Jesus Salas was appointed as the director of UMOS in 1968.
In the early 1960s, up to 15,000 migrant workers, mostly Mexican Americans from Texas, were arriving in Wisconsin each year to harvest crops and work in canneries. However, the increasing mechanization of Wisconsin agricultural production, bad weather, and overproduction that resulted in crops being plowed under instead of harvested left some migrants from Texas without… Read More

United Performing Arts Fund

The Milwaukee Youth Symphony, one of the arts organizations supported by UPAF, helped with the fundraising in this photograph from Uihlein Hall.
The United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) is a collaborative, non-profit organization that has been central to the growth of Milwaukee’s performing arts community. Its mission is to “promote the performing arts” and to provide “financial support of the performing arts in Southeastern Wisconsin.” UPAF has raised more than $250 million since its inception in the… Read More

Urban Ecology Center

A 2012 photograph of the Urban Ecology Center's main building, constructed in 2004 in Riverside Park.
The Urban Ecology Center (UEC) is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental awareness in Milwaukee. In 1991 residents of the area around Riverside Park began organizing park cleanups as a way to teach children about the environment, as well as to fight pollution and crime. They soon organized as the UEC and began hosting classes… Read More