Madisonís Most Influential Women
*Anna Mae Miller: Anna Mae and her husband, William, were perhaps the city's earliest advocates for improving the lives of African-Americans in Madison.
According to granddaughter Betty Banks, herself a prominent Madisonian, Anna Mae and her husband frequently hosted their friend and fellow activist W.E.B. Dubois in their Madison home and helped strategize organizing tactics around issues of equality for African-American citizens. Wife and husband also had the ear of Gov. Robert M. La Follette, Banks said.
"My grandmother advised La Follette on issues around women and children," she said. "She was always interested in issues that affected women and families."
"She was a real advocate for other women to become educated and to also work in the field of social justice around women and children," Banks added.
Anna Mae and William formed the Book Lover's Club, which was a precursor to the Madison chapter of the NAACP. Anna Mae was the longtime treasurer of the chapter.
William met then Gov. La Follette while William, who had attended law school, was working as a porter at the Plankinton House in Milwaukee one summer. La Follette invited him to Madison to serve as a legal counsel around the turn of the century but that turned out to be politically infeasible because of prevailing prejudice against African-Americans, Banks said. Instead, William served as a messenger to La Follette for 19 years.
*Ethel Brown: When Brown, the first woman elected to the Madison City Council, was elected the board's president in 1961, the Wisconsin State Journal couldn't resist reminding readers of her dual role as homemaker.
Under the headline "Mrs. Brown Tackles City Issues With Dishes," the article began: "The best time to think is when you're doing the dishes; every woman knows that. And Madison's municipal problems are due to get some thoughtful consideration while the new president of the City Council has her capable hands deep in soapy water."
In 1951 Brown was elected to the 19th District, defeating Floyd Wheeler by just 348 votes.
As a council member, Brown was credited with mentoring other women who ran for office, helping to establish the city's Equal Opportunity Commission and helping to set up the city's civil service system.
Brown was also a former president of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters. During her tenure as president, the league played an instrumental role in efforts leading to the creation of the state welfare department in 1939.
*Rachel Szold Jastrow: Jastrow was a local suffragist who, as president of the Woman's Club, helped to raise money for the first city hospital.
She also founded one of the first Hadassah chapters outside of the East Coast when she started Madison's chapter of the Jewish service organization in 1917.