10 Inspiring Women on Women Who Inspire Them

BY SARAH C. LANGE

This Women’s History Month we’re celebrating women who have made a difference in greater Milwaukee.  We asked 10 local women from different fields which women they admire and why. Here’s what they shared with us.

« 1 The first female lighthouse keeper in Milwaukee, Georgia Stebbins, took over lighthouse duties for her ill father. In addition to caring for her parents, she managed the lighthouse, getting up every four hours to care for the light. After seven years with no title, she became the official lighthouse keeper and eventually North Point Lighthouse’s longest-running keeper, managing it for 26 years. I admire her hard work and dedication. — Mame Croze McCully, executive director of the Milwaukee County Historical Society

 

2 Probably one of Milwaukee’s most famous women is Golda Meir, the first female and fourth prime minister of Israel. She moved to Milwaukee as a youngster from Kiev and later married and moved to Israel as a young adult. She overcame poverty, discrimination and being a non-native English speaker to rise to the head of a major country. Her story tells of grit, determination, intellect, unselfishness and making a difference in the lives of many. — Patti Sherman-Cisler, executive director of the Jewish Museum Milwaukee

 

3 Teresa Mercado, executive director of Mexican Fiesta and the Wisconsin Hispanic Scholarship Foundation Inc., transformed a modest organization into one that is now responsible for awarding more than $1.35 million in scholarships to young Hispanic students attending college. I have witnessed firsthand the effort, persistence and passion Mercado has in ensuring the foundation continues to grow, and she has inspired me to pursue my goals. — Carla Elena Echeveste, Ms. Mexican Fiesta Ambassador 2016 and pre-med student

 

4 When my first book was published, I put a copy in Mary Nohl’s Beach Road mailbox, along with a note telling her how much I admired her work. She invited me over for a tour of her magical house, with its paint-splattered furniture and carpeting and all the surprise and pleasure of art everywhere. Over the years, she shared stories of her life and art, and she opened her yard to visiting writers I brought over. The generosity of her art and life have informed and continue to inform and inspire my life and writing. — Susan Firer, poet\

 

« 5 Dr. Joan Prince and her leadership, service ethic and courage have inspired me since I first met her. From her youngest days as the president of the library’s Billy the Bookworm Club, to her recent role as a United States Citizen Ambassador to the United Nations, her passion, sense of mission and achievement serve as a model for so many women — and men. With all her success, she still puts family, faith and friends first and is the warm-hearted, supportive library trustee who helped guide me through my early days as director of the Milwaukee Public Library. — Paula Kiely

 

» 6 I admire Martha Fitch, who proposed to operate the Woman’s Club of Wisconsin (WCW) as a business. She became the first president of the first women’s stock corporation in the U.S. The stock subscription raised funds to purchase the land and construct a clubhouse. The building was completed in 1887 and has been in continuous use by the WCW for 130 years. Fitch’s business plan included that the building would be available for rentals and used for lectures, programs and dances, generating revenue for the operation of the facility as well as the cultural and philanthropic work of club members. — Betsy Prinz, president of the Woman’s Club of Wisconsin

 

7 Juanita Adams was a member of the Milwaukee United School Integration Committee. Her most memorable and heroic act was during a protest at the MacDowell school, which the Milwaukee School Board chose to build at a location that ensured it would be segregated. Six months pregnant, Adams chained herself to a forklift at the construction site. She showed me how women’s family roles did not cancel out their ability to speak and act on community issues.— Margaret Rozga, writer/activist

 

8 Jennifer B artolotta is involved in the Wisconsin Humane Society and the women’s group TEMPO, and she started the nonprofit arm of Bartolotta’s, Care-a-lotta. Care-a-lotta chose Komen as its first nonprofit partner, helping us raise funds and awareness. Her latest venture is with the MPS ProStart Program, bringing in local chefs to teach high school students how to be a chef. I admire her giving her time and talent and making connections between organizations. She doesn’t stop with one cause; she’s involved in many — dogs, children, breast cancer — and how to make our community the best it can be. — Nikki Panico, executive director of Susan G. Komen Wisconsin

 

9 A retired schoolteacher, Venora McKinney co-founded the High Point Fund, which financially supports African-American performing arts in Milwaukee, more than 10 years ago. Her tenacity and willingness to work tireless hours to support the work of black artists are truly underappreciated. Her understanding of the need for black arts to be healthy in our community was visionary. — Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker-Bronson, founder and artistic director of Ko-Thi  Dance Company

 

10 When I was a freshman in college, I stumbled upon an online interview with Mary Louise Mussoline, then the executive director of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. She was poised, intelligent and dedicated, and I sent her an email telling her she was everything I wanted to be. That led me to pursue a career in radio, and she continued to inspire me by her fearless efforts to make Milwaukee a stronger and more inclusive community. She was a prime example that each of us can make a difference — regardless of gender. — Makenzie Boettcher, producer at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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