Milwaukee-Downer College Records, 1840-1964


The college was created in 1895 by the merger of Milwaukee College and Downer College. Each institution, founded for the education of women, had a distinct history of its own. In August 1849, a meeting of Milwaukee citizens, organized by Increase Lapham, discussed women's education and approved a plan proposed by Catherine E. Beecher to found a school. The school was formally organized in May 1850 and incorporated by the State legislature in March 1851 as the Female Normal Institute and High School at Milwaukee. The name changed to the Milwaukee Female College in April 1853, and in March 1876 to Milwaukee College.

Downer College was originally chartered in January 1855 as the Wisconsin Female College, organized by the Wisconsin Baptist Educational Society. It became incorporated and non-sectarian in 1862. In the late 1870s, due to changing administrations and character of the school, it was sometimes referred to as the Fox Lake College or Fox Lake Academy. After the bequest of Jude Jason Downer in 1884, the name was officially changed in 1886 to Downer College.

Milwaukee-Downer College merged with Lawrence College in 1964. Its buildings are now part of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus.