Marion G. Ogden Papers, circa 1890-1970


Marion G. Ogden, Milwaukee social worker and social activist, has been an influential member of various organizations dedicated to child welfare reform and legislation particularly during the Progressive Era. Granddaughter of John Ogden, who came to Milwaukee from Chicago in 1835, Marion was born to George W. And Elizabeth Ogden on February 20, 1875. She began her education at home, but entered the normal school in the fourth grade. Later she attended East Side High School from which she graduated in 1893. After one year of study at Wells College in Aurora, New York, illness cut short her education, and she remained inactive until 1900 when she answered an advertisement by Mrs. Henry F. Whitcomb seeking someone to visit boys in jail. 1900, therefore, marked the beginning of her career as a social activist. Under the guiding influence of Mrs. Whitcomb, founder and president of the Boys' Busy Life Club (later the Milwaukee Boys' Club), Miss Ogden became not only interested in every manner of boys' problems but also involved in institutions and organizations geared to the broader needs of youth. In the fall of 1900 the Boys' Club decided to work for the founding of a juvenile court through the Wisconsin legislature. The committee formed to coordinate the program consisted of Mrs. Katharine Van Wyck, a prominent Progressive; Mrs. Whitcomb; and Miss Ogden. Through their efforts a juvenile court bill passed the legislature in 1901. That action was followed in the same year by the founding of the Children's Betterment League. Child welfare activities were Miss Ogden's main preoccupation until 1903, when she traveled to Colorado. Upon her return the next year, she participated in the formation of the Central Council of Philanthropies and resumed her role as promoter and leader of programs and legislation to secure improved juvenile justice and social welfare. A progressive reform enthusiast, she founded or was active in numerous organizations that sponsored programs to better the lives of neglected children and youth in the urban environment, particularly in Milwaukee. Correspondence, planning, and meetings connected with these organizations and with her legislative and philanthropic interests dominated her life for many years. She was also one of the three founders of the Milwaukee County Historical Society.