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A sepia-colored medium shot of Ellen Bravo from the thighs up smiling in a casual top while holding papers or photographs with both hands. She is sitting next to two wooden office desks surrounding her. Between 2 o'clock and 4 o'clock, on one of the desks, are a computer monitor and a keyboard. Close to it are two small photographs hung on the wall. Some documents are piled on the desk in front of Bravo. Some others appear in a less neat pile behind her. A window with open blinds attached to the wall between 10 and 11 o'clock.
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

Sepia-colored image of the Junior League's Blood Center facade by Wells Street. The place features three entrance doors, as it consists of three shops combined. Attached along the building's top is the rectangular "Junior League Blood Center" sign. The storefront is adjacent to a Schlitz beer tied house. Above their flat roof are billboards advertising Schlitz beer, a county judge's reelection campaign, and a chewing gum brand.
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

Image of a serviceman in his dress white uniform playing basketball with three children in an indoor basketball court. A child in the blue shirt holds the ball while facing the man. More children appear in the background along with other adults.
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

Low-angle shot of the main entrance of the Goldin Center. Inscribed on its exterior wall beneath the roof is "COA Youth and Family Centers GOLDIN CENTER" beneath the COA's logo. The main entrance has two pillars made of stones. One on the left has a "no loitering or prowling" sign. Installed on the right pillar is the street number "2320."
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

A wide shot of Walnut Way Community Garden displays a board that reads "Walnut Way Production Garden #2." It is installed among green grass and flowers. Trees, raised garden beds filled with plants, and roofs of houses in the neighborhood are visible in the background.
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.

Wide shot of Will Allen holding a fishing net with the net part sunk in a rectangular aquaponic pond. He stands next to the pond on the right portion of this image in blue jeans and a green hat. Rows of potted plants that are placed in racks surrounds the pond in this greenhouse.
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.

A small group of people in summer clothes gathers in a circle next to an old building. They stand and directionally face the tour guide from Historic Milwaukee, Inc.
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

A group of children and a few adults stand in a semi-circle in Zeidler Park's white-colored gazebo. Two kids and an adult on the right side hold trophies. Some children wear headcovers in different colors.
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 in dresses and hats clean an indoor meeting space. The woman on the left smiles as she gazes up at the woman who stands in the center on a wooden table. Together they hold a bowl. The third woman on the right focuses on her bowl.
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

A large group of Fair Housing protestors of different ages gathers outside St. Boniface Church. Standing on a higher ground in the right foreground is a young man carrying a protest sign reading "Open Housing."
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

High-angle shot of the NAACP annual dinner showing the members of the Milwaukee branch making direct eye contact with the camera lens. The room is filled with people in formal attire sitting at dinner tables. Curtains hang on the wall in the background. Large antique ceiling lamps are glowing. Two American flags are placed on the wall on the left.
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

Grayscale portrait of Wesley Scott facing left in glasses, suit and tie. Scott stands with his right hand over his chest.
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


Sepia-colored long shot of Layton Art Gallery interior showcases framed paintings hanging on the walls. One of the room's corners appears on the right. Stanchion posts run from left to right to protect the works of art. Someone in formal attire stands at the image center with their right hand holding on to the stanchion. Two gallery benches sit on the floor—one in the center foreground, one in the far right. The room's ceiling is visible. Text at the bottom of the photo reads "Interior View in Layton Art Gallery."
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

Grayscale photograph of four people in an office full of books and documents. Jennifer Morales sits in the center foreground with her body facing to the right and eyes looking at the camera lens. She smiles in a blouse and a floral-patterned skirt while holding a document with both hands. Mike Trokan sits in a shirt and trousers behind Morales. His body faces to the left while making eye contact with the camera, and his hands hold a document. Behind him is Sharon Matthias standing and smiling in a t-shirt, looking at the camera, and carrying a paper. Barbara Miner stands behind Matthias and poses with a landline phone. A full bookshelf is in the background.
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


Side view of ten female scouts standing side by side in an open space in grayscale. Most of them are in skirts and short-sleeved shirts. One person, who is in a different dress, stands in the middle. Some people and trees are visible in the background.
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


A grayscale image of the facade of the Abraham Lincoln House. The two-story brick building features an entrance and arched windows on the ground level, and rectangular windows on the upper level. Text beneath the image reads "Abraham Lincoln House."
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

Long shot of the Sixteenth Street Community Health Center building standing on a street corner. The two-story building is composed of bricks and ornamented with light blue paint on several sides. The Center's sign is visible on the exterior wall. Some people traverse near a red car parked next to the building. Traffic lights are visible. The blue sky is above.
  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)

Grayscale long shot of migrant laborers leaving a cucumber field in Portage, Wisconsin. A woman and a man walk in the foreground. The woman appears on the left, in the middle of a path that stretches from the right background to the left foreground. The man in a hat carrying a bucket appears in the right foreground. They walk toward the right. Other workers are visible in the background. Rows of cucumber plants can be seen here and there.
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

Grayscale long shot of a long banner that reads "Don't just applaud, send money" carried by several people on the stage in Uihlein Hall. The banner hides some of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony members that sit behind it. The conductor stands on the right, facing the orchestra members. The spectators' heads are visible in the image's foreground. They are seated while watching the performance.
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

Exterior view of the Urban Ecology Center's main building facing slightly to the left. The building has a balcony and porch on the left and wooden garage doors on the right. Atop the doors is inscribed "Urban Ecology Center" in green. Two vehicles are parked in front of the garage. A pole with street signs appears in the right foreground. The blue sky is above.
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