Wisconsin Biographies

The Biographies

Community Builders

Meet big-hearted Wisconsinites from history who created communities and helped those around them to thrive.
Illustration of Mahmoud Othman Atta

Mahmoud Othman Atta

A Mosque for Milwaukee


This community builder made Milwaukee his home, and brought people together by building the first mosque in the area open to all.

Illustration of Elizabeth Baird

Elizabeth Baird

Life in Territorial Wisconsin


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 Charles Clark

Charles Clark

From Rags to Riches


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 Carrie Frost

Carrie Frost

Fly Fishing Boss


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 Belle Case La Follette

Belle Case La Follette

Ballots and Bloomers


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 Kate Pelham Newcomb

Kate Pelham Newcomb

Doctor of the Northwoods


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


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 Vel Phillips and James Groppi

Vel Phillips & James Groppi

The Fight for Fair Housing


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.

Illustration of Electa Quinney teaching in a classroom in front of a blackboard

Electa Quinney

Mohican Teacher and Mentor


This educator endured hardships and injustice to lift up Native and non-Native people through her generosity and guidance.

Illustration of Gesha Sopa

Geshe Lhundub Sopa

Carrying Teachings from Tibet


This educator carried teachings of Tibetan Buddhism with him from Tibet to the United States, and built a community for teaching and learning in southern Wisconsin.

Embroidered illustration of Joe Bee Xiong from animated biography

Joe Bee Xiong

War to Peace


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


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.