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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

11. Social and political organizations,   pp. 189-207


Page 189

Social and Political Organizations
Carol Lohry Cartwright
ike residents of many Wisconsin communities, Janesville's citizens established social and
fraternal organizations and clubs, ranging from singing groups to secret societies. Three
social welfare organizations flourished in Janesville that made important contributions
to the community. Janesville has had an active labor movement, from the building trades to
the teamsters. Many women in Janesville were active in clubs that provided them with both a
social outlet and a means for participating in civic affairs. Most of Janesville's clubs and
organizations were only locally important; others, such as the United Auto Workers Union,
were important in the history of the state and nation.
Janesville has also been fortunate to have a long history of high-quality health facilities. In
the nineteenth century, before the modem medical era, individual doctors served the public.
There were also some prominent surgeons in the community, providing the most up-to-date care
possible during that era. In the late nineteenth century, a few Janesville physicians
established a city hospital. Eventually; the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic religious order,
developed the hospital into a first-class regional medical center. In the twentieth century,
progressive physicians established medical clinics that are important medical institutions
today.
Women's Organizations
Other than temperance or suffrage groups, women's clubs were the organizations that most
active, middle-class women belonged to in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The
most popular of these groups were those affiliated with the Wisconsin Federation of Women's
Clubs, founded in 1896. Member clubs conducted activities ranging from music appreciation to
civic leadership. The clubs also provided an important outlet for women who could not
otherwise participate in the political system. (Wyatt 1986: Social and Political Movements,
4-3-4-7)
The two most significant local groups were the Janesville Federation of Women and the
Janesville Woman's Club Association. The Janesville Federation of Women was organized on
March 31, 1916, combining several women's organizations into a more powerful force in the
community for improving civic welfare. The Janesville Federation of Women did not affiliate
with any state or national group; it offered membership both to local clubs and to individuals
not affiliated with any other group. (Janesville Federation of Women: n.p.)
The women's organizations that participated in the Janesville Federation of Women included
the Janesville Art League, Altrusa, the Catholic Women's Club, the Elks Ladies, the Eastern
Star Study Class, the Jaycettes, the American Association of University Women, the National
Auxiliary to Railroad Mail Clerks, Hadassah, the McDowell Club, and the Philomathians.
The first project the federation funded was a "rest room" in the Myers building (not extant).
The purpose of the room was to give working women a place to go during their lunch hours and
women shoppers a place to rest when they were downtown. In 1919, the federation began its
long-time support of medical services in the community by establishing a free dental clinic. The
federation raised money to pay a dentist, buy dental equipment, and open a clinic on the third
Social and Political Organizations


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