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History of the City of Racine
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Black History Month
Women's History Month
March marks Women's History Month, a tribute to the many women who have made significant contributions to America and the rest of the world in the fields of science, politics, law, sports, the arts, entertainment, and many other fields.
Below we would like to share some brief biographies of some of the women who created history right here in Racine, WI.
Reverand Olympia Brown was the first woman to graduate from an American theological seminary, and the first American woman to serve as an ordained minister in the United States.
Rev. Brown served for nine years as minister at the Good Shepherd Unitiarian Church in Racine, now renamed in her honor, and began the fight for women’s suffrage in 1887 when she attempted to vote in a Racine municipal election.
Although the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied Rev. Brown the right to vote in the election, she became a national leader in the women’s suffrage movement and was able to vote in 1920 at age 85 following the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote.
Dr. Laurel Clark was a 1979 graduate of Horlick High School and received both her bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1983 and her M.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987. First selected by NASA in 1996, Dr. Clark served in the Astronaut Office Payloads/Habitability branch from 1997-2000.
Dr. Clark’s last mission ended tragically when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during entry, killing all 16 crew members in 2003. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Space Flight Service Medal, and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. Dr. Clark’s research helped to create an astronaut treadmill still used by NASA.
The fountain at the foot of 6th Street in Racine is named in her honor.
Dr. Beatrice Jones was a leader in medicine and education in Racine throughout her life. Dr. Jones began practicing pediatric medicine in 1933 and was the first woman elected president of the Racine County Medical Society in 1950. Dr. Jones was a medical consultant to the Racine school district and served on the Racine School Board from 1946-1958, and was the first woman to serve as Chief of Staff for the former St. Luke’s Hospital in Racine from 1958-1963.
Dr. Beatrice O. Jones Elementary School in Racine is named in her honor.
Maria Benedicta Bauer co-founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Dominic of St. Catherine of Siena in Racine in 1862. A native of Bavaria, Mother Maria Benedicta and the congregation were dedicated to the education of children of working class German immigrants.
Maria Benedicta Bauer’s work in this country was marked from the beginning by a determination to Americanize. Today Racine Dominicans continue their ministry through the Eco-Justice Center, St. Catherine’s School and many programs dedicated to assisting the poor and seniors in Racine.
If not for the relentless determination and drive of Mother Maria Benedicta Bauer, foundress of St. Catharina’s Female Academy, St. Catherine’s would not exist today.
Thelma Orr, after persevering through several bouts of tuberculosis, the death of three children and her husband, devoted her life to helping others. She served as an outreach worker for Family Planning, a field worker for the National Urban League, Human Resources Director for Franklin School. In 1963, she trained as a teacher and later became a workshop director in the Laubach Literacy Training Program.
Through her outreach and advocacy work at the Urban League, Ms. Orr facilitated special civil service tutoring to help prepare minority applicants for the police and fire department examinations. Orr was directly responsible for the recruitment and development of a number of African American police officers, including our current Chief, Art Howell.
She continued to serve the community until the time of her death, serving on the George Bray Neighborhood Center Board, the Center for Community Concerns, Lincoln Neighborhood Center Inc. and the Kenosha Job Advisory Council. Her large collection of awards and tributes includes an honorary Doctor of Social Work degree conferred upon her by Carthage College.
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