Wisconsin Biographies

The Biographies

All Biographies

Explore the complete Wisconsin Biographies collection and discover stories of the people making history in our state.
Illustration of Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock

Agriculture’s MVP

1843–1931

This agricultural chemist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison made some all-star discoveries and scored major points with the Babcock Test, totally changing the dairy industry game.

Illustration of Elizabeth Baird

Elizabeth Baird

Life in Territorial Wisconsin

1810–1890

The words this strong and determined pioneer put to paper about her life in what would become Wisconsin opened a window into the past.

Illustration of Walter Bresette

Walter Bresette

Treaty Rights and Sovereignty

1947–1999

Not afraid to stand up for what he believed in, this member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa dedicated himself to protecting the rights and lands of First Nations people in Wisconsin.

Illustration of Charles Clark

Charles Clark

From Rags to Riches

1842–1891

From New York to Neenah, this industrious innovator’s journey to becoming a leader in the paper products world was marked by his commitment to serving his community and country.

Illustration of Mildred Fish-Harnack

Mildred Fish-Harnack

Germany’s Secret Hero

1902–1943

This courageous justice seeker’s path would take her from Milwaukee to Germany, where belief in equal rights would lead her to join the resistance working against Hitler and the Nazis.

Illustration of Carrie Frost

Carrie Frost

Fly Fishing Boss

1868–1937

This fly fishing phenom didn’t let her line get tangled up in the stereotypes of women of her time. She used her passion for fly fishing to start a brilliant business that put Stevens Point on the map and gave women new work opportunities.

Illustration of Joshua Glover

Joshua Glover

And the End of Slavery

1824–1888

This freedom seeker traveled from St. Louis, Missouri to Racine, Wisconsin, and later to Canada, aided by abolitionists and the Underground Railroad. His story is part of a series of events that led to the declaration of the end of slavery in the United States.

Illustration of Bill Harley and Arthur Davidson

Bill Harley & Arthur Davidson

Innovation on Two Wheels

1880–1943
1881–1950

Sick of struggling up steep hills on their bikes, these two gear heads jumped on the opportunity to improve the motorcycle, creating a business that became big in Wisconsin and around the world.

Illustration of Belle Case La Follette

Belle Case La Follette

Ballots and Bloomers

1859–1931

This activist and advisor didn’t let limiting ideas about what women could do —or uncomfortable corsets—confine her in her quest to get access to the ballot box and foster greater peace in the world.

Illustration of Gaylord Nelson

Gaylord Nelson

A Vision for the Earth

1916–2005

From outdoor adventures in Clear Lake, to representing his community and his state in government, this down-to-earth visionary always kept his eyes on the environment to make a better world for us all.

Illustration of Kate Pelham Newcomb

Kate Pelham Newcomb

Doctor of the Northwoods

1885–1956

Neither her dad’s disapproval, nor Northern Wisconsin weather would keep this determined doctor from practicing medicine. When a dream of building a hospital seemed out of reach, her community collected a million pennies to make it happen.

Illustration of Chief Oshkosh

Chief Oshkosh

Leader in Troubled Times

1795–1858

When the United States Government’s land grabs put his people in harm’s way, this Menominee leader pushed back and proposed a new plan to protect their homeland and way of life.

Illustration of Les Paul

Les Paul

The Search for the New Sound

1915–2009

Getting his start at an early age, this music industry innovator from Waukesha made some serious (sound) waves with his inventions.

Illustration of Vel Phillips and James Groppi

Vel Phillips & James Groppi

The Fight for Fair Housing

1924-2018
1930-1985

Upon learning about the school and housing discrimination happening in their hometown, these Milwaukee movers and shakers took action, making their case on the campaign trail, in the courtroom, and on the streets of their city.

Embroidered illustration of Joe Bee Xiong from animated biography

Joe Bee Xiong

War to Peace

1961–2007

From growing up in a mountain village in Laos, to leaving his home country after the Vietnam War, to making a new home in Eau Claire, this Hmong American leader became a cross-cultural connector in his community.

Illustration of Milly Zantow

Milly Zantow

Recycling Revolutionary

1923–2014

When this problem-solver learned that a landfill in her Sauk County community was closing much earlier than it should, she got to work. Her activism and effort ended up making big changes in plastics recycling.