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19th Century Girl Satirizes the 2016 Candidates: Lizzie Black Kander Valedictorian Speech—“When I’m President” (June 28, 1878)

Archive for June, 2016

19th Century Girl Satirizes the 2016 Candidates: Lizzie Black Kander Valedictorian Speech—“When I’m President” (June 28, 1878)

Young Lizzie Kander

This is the first known picture that we have found of Lizzie Black Kander. It was donated recently to the JMM Archives in an album.

By Sharon Levy, Intern

In June of 1878 a young woman graduated as valedictorian from East Side High. Her name was Lizzie Black. She’s more commonly known in the Milwaukee Jewish community by her married name—Lizzie Kander, the founder of The Settlement House and the creator of The Settlement House Cookbook.

Lizzie’s speech was titled “When I’m President” and took a satirical look at the social issues of the day. Quoting Henry Clay, “I’d rather be president than be right,” she proceeded to spout rhetoric evocative of today’s political climate. She joked that the underpaid congressmen were too busy taking bribes to be able to get their work done so the best way to increase their productivity was to raise their salaries. Also, despite graduating as valedictorian of her class, she accused education of creating an economic drain on American society and changing people’s ideals.

“The Earth will scarcely have moved fifty times around its orbit before the sun will look down on a deserted country, unless a change takes place in the government, and we have at is head, an honest, reliable person, one who shall be a friend to the rich, and the poor, alike.”

Lizzie combined the hyperbole of all politicians trying to get a rise out of the voters in order to bring a larger turnout—political tactics have not changed significantly since then. Big issues like immigration, climate change, and women’s reproductive rights are often used to move crowds to vote.

While climate change wasn’t a big issue in the 1870s, immigration and especially commerce were important topics.

“Commerce, on which the very life of our nation depends, is almost entirely destroyed, and if we allow this state of affairs to go on much longer, we shall soon be isolated from the rest of the world, like China. The wealth of the nation is in the hands of a few individuals, who are accumulating more every day, while the poor are becoming more miserable. Our men are forgetting that truth, honesty, virtue, and love are far more valuable to the happiness of mankind than extravagant modes of living… Would you have these sorrows removed? Then elect me as your president and I will…[establish] free trade.”

Lizzie’s reasons for wanting economic change are based on the principles of helping the poor but she never exactly explains how her economic plans could benefit anyone other than the rich, competing for buyers and profits on a controlled market. Instead of outlining any legitimate plans, she simply makes her claims that one will equal the other, similarly to today’s political tactics.

Even though politicians have always been paid well and are generally on the wealthier side, they are always in control of salaries and insurance for working people.

“We cannot blame the congressmen for taking bribes. If we would give enough reward for their services, they would be tempted to forget that they are in a position of a great responsibility, and that they are working for the benefit of the masses, and not for the sake of a few rich individuals; and so, if we would have to give out a few thousand dollars more, yearly, work would be done more cheerfully and better.”

The average congressman’s salary in 1874 was $5,000—about $100,000 dollars today with inflation rates. That’s double the “average person’s” salary today!

By the end of this speech, the parody is clear. But at the beginning of the speech, some of Lizzie’s concerns are legitimate problems in the community around her, which she tends to her in her later life and career.

One part of her satire, however, was the very fact that she was a woman announcing her presidential platform. Lizzie was a progressive reformer and a very liberal-minded individual for the time she lived in. Despite her jokes about forays into politics, she wasn’t a believer in women’s suffrage. She chose to use her time helping women in the settlement house integrate into American life, calling suffrage an “unnecessary distraction.”

What would she think of Hillary Clinton today, even closer today to the office of president than she was in the 2008 election? Hillary definitely doesn’t meet Lizzie’s ideals for a woman—but those were also based around the 1890s standards. Would she be able to accept a woman’s more pronounced role as it is today and deny it all and push things back into the past?

In 2016, for the past two elections, the US has finally had its first viable bids for a female president. However, women have been running consistently since the 1970s. But these women weren’t the first to run either. Lizzie Kander’s speech came six years after Victoria Woodhull ran for president—and almost 50 years before women’s suffrage!

This portrait of Kander is located in Jewish Museum Milwaukee.

This portrait of Kander is located in Jewish Museum Milwaukee.

The full text of this speech is available in the archives of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; you read it here>>

Jewish Museum Milwaukee: Let’s Talk

By: Patti Sherman-Cisler, Executive Director

Wow!  I have just completed my first year at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the time has flown by…..So many wonderful people…, staff, board, volunteers, visitors, donors and other new friends have made my transition a joy.  As I reflect on the last year a few key themes keep reoccurring in my thoughts and I thought I would share them with you.

Conversations start here.  As staff, board and community volunteers brainstormed what the JMM tagline should be we kept coming back to the realization that the museum excels at taking Jewish history and making it relevant to a myriad of constituents by finding key threads, themes and stories to investigate, contemplate and expand upon.  As I thought even further about the tagline, I realized…this is why I wanted to work at JMM!  It is a place where intellectual curiosity and exploration are encouraged, where stories of the past lend themselves to lessons for today and where diversity of experiences and opinions find a home.

•1942. New York. Collier's January 17, 1942, Madness [Nazi Propaganda] original work. Reproduced with the cooperation of The Arthur Szyk Society, Burlingame, CA

• 1942. New York. Collier’s January 17, 1942, Madness [Nazi Propaganda] original work. Reproduced with the cooperation of The Arthur Szyk Society, Burlingame, CA

This past year JMM explored many timely and relevant themes through its exhibits, programs, and ensuing discussions. Topics included the

politics of Argentina, the entrance ways for minorities and women into the social fabric of the United States, the use of propaganda to sway public opinion then and now, the power of political cartoons, and much, much more.  Over 2000 school children visited JMM this past year.  They learned about immigration, community and beliefs, intolerance, and Israel.  Some were Jewish, most were not. All of them came away with a new found knowledge.

Your personal story is JMM’s history.  Important stories are told through the donations to the JMM archives and curated by the museum. The story of the Strnad family is probably the most well-known personal story that the museum has had the privilege to tell.  For those who don’t know it, Paul Strnad wrote to his cousin Alvin in Milwaukee seeking asylum for he and his wife Hedy, a talented dress designer from Prague during the Nazi occupation.  The Strnads did not survive the Holocaust, but Hedy’s dress designs did.  As a testament to Hedy, and as a reminder of all the talent lost, JMM with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s costume shop created her elegant designs and with it a sobering reminder of the consequences of what should never have been and what must not ever happen again. JMM began travelling Stitching History From the Holocaust this past year.  It opened in New York City in April and travels on to Madison, WI in September and Miami Beach in January.IMG_20160412_122113

There are hundreds of other stories the museum tells.  A high school classmate of mine called not long after I had started to tell me his grandparents were in a largescale photo in the making a living section of the permanent exhibit and showed me them in his next visit.  A good friend toured the museum for the first time this year, turned a corner and was surprised to see her life size father as a youngster in his basketball uniform! Countless visitors have pointed out their family and friends in graduation, bar and bat mitzvah, and wedding photos.  Locally gifted artifacts tell the important stories of immigration, the Holocaust, intolerance, Tikkun Olam, community and beliefs and so much more. Your memories tell stories for future generations.

Boundless enthusiasm creates amazing results. JMM staff LOVE their jobs and tackle big projects with gusto. The temporary exhibit schedule ensures there is always something to learn and contemplate at JMM.  From Chasing Dreams: Baseball & Becoming American, to the Jews of Argentina – from Arthur Szyk the Art of Illumination to the current Project Mah Jongg exhibit there is always something that will spark your imagination or urge you to learn more. Staff works diligently to make sure the quality of the exhibits and the 40+ annual programs offer the public an opportunity learn, grow and appreciate.

The Museum also planned and executed a Plein Air event with its Milwaukee Museum Mile partners, held Milwaukee Museum Mile day, opened its doors to hundreds for Open Doors Milwaukee, held a fabulous opening tailgate party in the back parking lot, is offering Mah Jongg play, lessons and a tournament this summer, toured over 2000 school children, held monthly programs for people with memory loss, and well…. whew!

JMM plays well with others-The museum is a place of real collaboration and believes in the power of partnerships.  This year the museum partnered with the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center for a program on the Eichmann trial, a program on propaganda in art, and providing educational content to over 1500 childrenThe partnership with the Milwaukee Repertory for Stitching History resulted in a History in Progress award from the American Association for State and Local History and the Governor’s Archive Award. JMM’s partner MPTV Arts page won an Emmy for it video on the making of Stitching History.  The Education department has meaningful partnerships with SHARP literacy, Arts@Large and other groups. JMM is also an active member of the Milwaukee Museum Mile and the Council of American Jewish Museums

This is a community of caring individuals. This is a caring community that supports the museum in so many ways.  There are 650 loyal members, 20 exceptional docents, 27 involved board members, dozens of committed community volunteers who work in the archives and on exhibit/programming committees, talented interns, 3 dozen legacy participants, an amazing staff and loyal donors and foundations.  Through their generosity of time, talent and funds they ensure that the museum is a place open to all and encourages important, relevant conversations to happen.

Mah Jongg Committee

The museum has a lot of exciting exhibits and programs in store for the coming year.  After Project Mah Jong, Once & Again, Still Lifes with Beth Lipman opens in September.  Sheboygan-Falls artist Beth Lipman is nationally recognized for her glass sculptures that recreate the bounty of Renaissance and Baroque still-life paintings offers a modern perspective on timeless issues like mortality, consumerism, materiality, and temporality. JMM plans a celebration of greater Milwaukee talent, a tour of “makers”, an exploration of Lipman’s work and more.

Fabric of Survival opens in February of 2017.  Holocaust survivor Esther Nisenthal Krinitz used art and personal narrative to recognize individual courage and resilience, and to foster understanding and compassion for those who experience injustice.  Her 30 hauntingly beautiful original fabric compositions detail her life before, during and after World War II. Related programing will engage audiences in conversations about injustice, memory, and the power of art.

The summer of 2017 is still being planned.  But I can say if you know and love Milwaukee, have an affectionate penchant for the quirkiness of humankind, and appreciate artistic talent, this will be an exhibit you will want to explore with friends and family.

Bringing three to four special exhibits, upkeep of the permanent exhibit implementing, over 40 programs per year and preservation of the archives is not only exhilarating and a joy, but expensive.  Each temporary exhibit is subsidized through fundraising efforts so that prices for admission, school tours and programs are affordable for all.  So, please, if you value the conversations and programs at JMM and can help keep the museum affordable to all a gift of any amount is welcome.

As any good executive director would do….
here is the link.

Thank you for a wonderful and satisfying first year at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee.  Here’s to you and to the next year!




Mah Jongg & Me

By: Donna Neubauer

Throughout the summer in honor of the exhibit Project Mah Jongg, Jewish Museum Milwaukee will be posting local mah jongg memories. We are thrilled to kick off this series with JMM docent Donna Neubauer’s reflections on her Mahj Memories.

Sheila Eglash Donna Neubauer, Renee Weinshal and Gerri Boym meet for their weekly game

Sheila Eglash Donna Neubauer, Renee Weinshal and Gerri Boym meet for their weekly game

My love affair with Mahj Jongg began in 1957.  In my senior year of high school three of my friends and I decided to start a Mahj Jongg club.  After all wasn’t it part of our Jewish DNA?. We should be naturals at this complex game.

First we need a set.

“Barbara’s mother has one and so does my mother,” said Judy.

“My mother has one permanently set up in our living room,” I  replied.

Okay, that issue was settled.  The next week we met at Barbara’s house after school.  We had no idea what we were doing and a Mahj Jongg card was even necessary.  We just made up a combination of hands that made sense to us.  That year the seed was planted, but never had the opportunity to blossom. Our Mahj club disbanded within two months.

I don’t remember ever taking a lesson to learn the game of Mahj Jongg.  I just played.  When I was a stay at home mom with a new baby, my girlfriends and I had pick up games.  With a phone call in the morning the game was created.  We decided where we would play that day, packed up our babies and all their necessary items, and played Mahj Jongg until the babies got fussy.  We played Mahj Jongg while the babies sat and cooed in their infant seats.  We stopped to feed the babies and ourselves and put them back in the crib to nap once again.  Sometimes we had three infants in a crib all sound asleep.

I also played Mahj in the evening when Bob wasn’t working so he could baby-sit our little ones.  We alternated homes and stopped at about 10:00 p.m for cake and coffee.  After the short break we continued our mahj game until about midnight.  During those years we played under a haze of smoke from our cigarettes.  Today our TV tables hold nosheri, then they held stubs of crushed cigarettes and piles of ashes which had to be emptied periodically during the evening. We sometimes talked and laughed more than we played. We shared with each other our hopes, dreams and sorrows, we exchanged new  recipes and shared the latest parenting skills.

When the children attended school full time, I  was able to play during the day several times a week with Cyril, Toni, and Clara.  We brought our lunch in a brown paper bag to the hostess’s home.  She provided the coffee.  We dropped our kids off at school at 9:00 a.m. played until lunch time when we brought out our sandwiches, and between bites continued our fast paced game.  We stopped at 3:30 p.m when we left to pick up our kids at school.  I loved that game which disbanded when Toni moved to Minneapolis and Cyril moved to Denver.

Today I play Mahj three times a week.  Each group I have been part of has brought beautiful memories I still hold dear to my heart.  Playing Mahj jong has given me friendships I would have never had if it had not been for that obsessively, addictive game.  The Mahj Jongg card has changed yearly but the friendships and memories continue to  remain.

Instead of meeting at private homes, we have the luxury of dining out in local restaurants that encourage us to remain and play Mahj.  Today we share with each other the results of our latest medical tests, complaints about our aches and pains and our concerns in respect to our husband’s health.  We don’t bring babies, but myriads of pictures of grown children, stories and accomplishments of our brilliant grandchildren and for some, anecdotes about their great grandchildren.

My friend Natalie and I are planning to go to the Greenfield Institute in Madison, Wisconsin in July.  When we were at our weekly mahj game she asked, “Are you bringing your Mahj set Donna?.”

“Of course I am.” I replied.

So if you see two ladies waiting for a third and fourth player for Mahj Jongg please join us, we need you.  Bring your Mahj Jongg card and of course money.  We’ll provide the munchies.

Isn’t it wonderful that somethings never change.

Come learn more about the game of Mah Jongg at Jewish Museum Milwaukee. The exhibit is open through August 28, 2016. #MahJonggAllSummerLong