Women's History Milwaukee

The Women’s History Milwaukee initiative will highlight seven iconic local figures in history—one each day over the course of a week. During this informational campaign, photos and facts about the women of Milwaukee’s history will be featured on this page, and these same informational vignettes will also run regularly during City Channel programming.

Photo of Nellie Wilson​​​​​​​

Nellie Wilson

Pioneering labor union leader at A.O. Smith; as a union steward, she filed numerous grievance on behalf of women workers, which ultimately led to the removal of workplace barriers for women at that company; first woman elected to her union's executive board, and a founding member of the women's committee for the Wisconsin chapter of the AFL-CIO; also served as a spokesperson for the Minority Affairs Institute of the AARP.

Photo of Dr. Dessie Levy​​​​​​​

Dr. Dessie Levy

Dean of Nursing at Milwaukee Area Technical College since 2005; Milwaukee native and first African American dean of nursing in Wisconsin.

Photo of Sister MacCanon Brown​​​​​​​

Sister MacCanon Brown

Longtime advocate for Milwaukee’s homeless population; one of the founders of the daytime homeless shelter Repairers of the Breach, serving as executive director for over 20 years; currently serves as president of the MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary in Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood.

Photo of Dorothy Walker​​​​​​​

Dorothy Walker

Born in Tennessee in 1946 to sharecropper parents; joined the Great Migration after graduating from high school, and moved to Milwaukee in 1974. She studied welding at MATC, and was hired as the first woman welder at Koehring Company. She eventually left her welding job to teach welding at MATC, eventually moving up to the position of apprenticeship coordinator, then assistant and associate dean. Walker was appointed interim dean of MATC's technology and applied sciences division in 2011.

Photo of Marcelia Nicholson​​​​​​​

Marcelia Nicholson

Elected to the Milwaukee County Board in 2016, and was chosen as County Board Chairwomen in 2020, the first Latina and African American woman to hold that position. She formerly taught for Milwaukee Public Schools, and also worked with the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association and the National Education Association.

Photo of JoCasta Zamarripa​​​​​​​

JoCasta Zamarripa

JoCasta’s public service career began in 2010 when she made history by becoming the first Latina elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature. She served in the Legislature for five terms before making history once again in 2020 by becoming the first Latina and the first openly LGBTQ member of Milwaukee’s Common Council.

Photo of Milwaukee Alderwomen​​​​​​​

Alderwomen of the Milwaukee Common Council

The 2020–2024 Common Council features the most female members in Milwaukee’s history. These five Alderwomen represent all parts of the city, and are helping improve the quality of life throughout Milwaukee while blazing a trail for our future female leaders. (L to R: Ald. Nikiya Dodd, District 5; Ald. Chantia Lewis, District 9; Ald. JoCasta Zamarripa, District 8; Ald. Milele A. Coggs, District 6; Ald. Marina Dimitrijevic, District 14)

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