• Podium with mic and laptop


By Jean Kapinsky and Rita Pachal

Gary Gisselman was the featured speaker at “Women for Women,” a Democratic Caucus Kickoff on October 1 in Wausau. Here are highlights of his talk.

White pine trees brought people here to Marathon County.

William and Mary Schofield built the first sawmill. After William’s death, Mary ran the saw mill, then sold it to her brother. She brought culture to Wausau and started the Women’s Club.

Mary Poor was active in the First Presbyterian Church in Wausau. She also ran mission churches within the city. The Mary Poor Chapel remains on Third Ave and now is the site of the Ballet School. She owned lots of land on Wausau’s west side.

Dr. Mary Trivet was the first woman surgeon and started the first hospital in Wausau on the corner of First St and Scott.

Sisters of Divine Savior helped to build St. Mary’s Hospital of Wausau.

Mrs. Johanna Wichman of Pomerania, Germany, established the Ladies Aid at Zion Lutheran Church of Wausau.

The Oakdahls—Elizabeth, Anna, and Karen, ran the Scandinavian House, a boarding house. They brought music, culture and teaching to the area.

In 1890, Helen Von Gnechten started the Philosopher Press on the corner of McClellan and Grant Streets. This building still stands. Her publishingWomen for Women Conference of beautiful books with elaborate design was known throughout the US.

The LeGrand Vaudeville Act put Wausau on the map. The four sisters (Lila, Lily, Margie and Katherine) also ran an antique store from their house. The house originally stood on Second and Grant Street. It was moved to Grand Avenue and is currently for sale.

Faye Crow came to Wausau in the 1950’s. She started in the Commission on Aging, the Wausau Women’s Community and was very involved in the YWCA of Wausau.

Mary Brady was the first home agricultural agent to guide farm wives in the 1920’s. She traveled on horseback throughout Marathon County.

Mildred Barber Abel was elected to the Wisconsin legislature at age 23, the first year that women could run for that office. She campaigned against Prohibition and was one of three women elected in Wisconsin in 1924.

Kay Biwer was the innovative librarian at Marathon County Library, first housed in the basement of Marathon County Courthouse. She started the Bookmobile which traveled to rural schools and communities. She also initiated library branches throughout the county.

Jeanette Coates ran the Quality Shop from 1930 – 1948 on Third Street. She helped to start the Marathon County Historical Society.

Mary Plumer lived at Fifth and Franklin Street in the Plumer Mansion, a very impressive structure. She and her husband Daniel started the First National Bank. She donated $500,000 to build Memorial Hospital in his memory.

Olive Graham was the administrator at Memorial Hospital which later included the Nursing School. Nurse dormitories were across the street on Grand Avenue.

Sister Regina Lietz (1921-1979) was the administrator at St. Mary’s Hospital on North Seventh Street. She helped in the merger of the two Wausau hospitals which took 20 years to accomplish.

Lula Jacobs came to Wausau in 1910. She and her husband started Hammer Blow Tool Company. After her husband died in 1945, she led the company until 1975.

Carolyn Marks has left her mark on Wausau with her support of the Wausau Boys & Girls Club. Caroline and her husband were generous supporters of the local Red Cross, the Wausau Conservatory of Music, the Performing Arts Foundation and the Community Foundation. Northcentral Technical College is the site of the Caroline S. Mark Center for Students with Disabilities.

Barney Viste was the Woman of Vision recipient in 1971. She was the first president of Wausau Child Care.

It is fascinating to review the work of women from the past who built many institutions which we now take for granted. Now it is our turn to dream up new structures that need to be built in our community.

Through the years, women have supported these issues: access to health care, affordability of child care, affordability of college and quality schools for all children. They support safety in schools and equal pay for equal work.

This review of influential women can encourage us to continue doing what we are doing in our corner of the world. It all adds up and it makes a difference!