Helen Daniels Bader, one of Milwaukee’s most prominent philanthropists, grew up a child of the Depression behind the soda fountain of her father’s drug store in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Propelled by an independent spirit, a set of firmly held beliefs, and no small measure of grit, she became a devoted wife, loving mother, and successful businesswoman before embarking on, later in life, a career as a licensed social worker. Specializing in the care of the elderly, she was an early advocate for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, and ahead of her time when it came to envisioning and promoting effective strategies related to their care.
Bader’s legacy is significant. The $100 million Helen Bader Foundation was established in 1991, two years after her death; over the next twenty-four years, it awarded $250 million in grants designed to advance the well-being of the impoverished and disadvantaged. That mission continues today at Bader Philanthropies, Inc. Bader’s life-and specifically her belief in the value of social work-is further immortalized through the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
An Independent Spirit: The Quiet, Generous Life of Helen Daniels Bader brings into sharp focus the story of one of Milwaukee’s most beloved and magnanimous benefactors. Enhanced with more than two hundred and fifty images-most from family collections-it details Bader’s remarkable, touching journey-one steeped in a lifetime of humility, determination, resilience, and empathy for others that played out amid years of personal disappointment and sorrow. Rising to the challenges thrown her way, Bader set an example that persists today as a model well worth emulating.