The 1950s

In 1953, Zontian and past Club President, lawyer Catherine Blanchard Cleary, trust officer at the First Wisconsin Trust Company was appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower to be Assistant Treasurer of the United States.

Photo from Wisconsin Bar Association

Photo from Wisconsin Bar Association

By 1963 Ms. Cleary was a vice president of the First Wisconsin Trust Company and was elected to its board of directors. In 1969 she was elected president of the trust company and to the board of First Wisconsin Bankshares. She was the first woman on this board, as well as on a number of other boards including Northwestern Mutual Life (1955), AT&T (1972), General Motors (1972), and Kraft (1972). Her civic contributions have included service on several foundation boards such as the presidency of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, from 1984 to 1987. Ms. Cleary served as a Trustee Emeritus at Lawrence University of Wisconsin. She also served on several college and university boards of trustees. Ms. Cleary taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Marquette University, and wrote about local and legal history.

In 1954, Zontians and past Club Presidents, Charlotte Russell Partridge and Miriam Frink retired as Co-Directors of the Layton School of Art, an institution they had founded in 1920.  A former art teacher at Milwaukee Downer College, Charlotte also headed the Wisconsin Federal Art Projects.  Upon retirement, Charlotte and Miriam were honored by the Milwaukee Common Council for having built an “art school nationally accredited and recognized for the excellence of its work”.  In addition, The Layton Art League established the “Charlotte Partridge-Miriam Frink Scholarship” which awarded $500 annually to a talented and deserving Layton student.

In April 1955, the Club was honored by Women’s Home Companion magazine for outstanding community service. The Club won the award for producing a booklet in 1954 which lists recreational opportunities for adults in Milwaukee County.  It was the result of a study made by the Club.

Florence Eiseman photo

Florence Eiseman

In 1955, Zontian Florence Eiseman was the first children’s designer to receive the Neiman-Marcus Award for “Outstanding Contribution to Fashion”. Upon her death at 88 in 1988, it was written ”Florence Eiseman has been one of the most influential figures in the children’s fashion industry over the last several decades,” said Carla Slocum, vice president and merchandise manager of children’s wear for Saks Fifth Avenue. ”She was responsible for raising the standards of fashion and quality in better children’s wear.”

In April of 1955, The Milwaukee Sentinel reported that the Club held “its first ever mass recognition ceremony” for twenty Zontians honored for outstanding civic and business contributions to the community.  Honorees mentioned were: Mrs. Charles W. Wright (operator of the wartime machine shop), Adele Abert (founder of the city’s first successful beauty and cosmetics shop), Anna G. Anderson (hat designer and authority on the manufacture of straw hats), Alice M. Bartlett (executive secretary of the YWCA for 23 years), and Daisy L. Carrington (credit manager for Mueller Furnace Co.), Nelle Clarke (executive at Northwestern National Insurance Co., Elizabeth Donnelly (first woman court reporter in Wisconsin), Lulu M. Dysart (principal of Girls Trade and Technical School), Nesta C. Edwards (owner and manager of a shop for children’s books), Pauline Ehbets (Milwaukee elementary school principal), Miriam Frink and Charlotte R. Partridge (co-directors of the Layton Art Gallery and School of Art), Mary E. Hurlbert (director of the public employment division of the Industrial Commission), Agnes M. Kenny (organizer of the women’s department of the First Wisconsin Bank), Ada B. Lothe (supervising dietician of Milwaukee County Institutions), Faye McBeath (retired consultant and part-owner/board member of The Milwaukee Journal), Hattie Redline (pioneer jobber and distributor of the wholesale bakery and oleomargarine fields), Meta M. Steinfort (head of the Spanish Department at UWM), Julia M. Swinburne (chief clerk in the Electric Co. claim department), and Margorie Taylor (leader in development of the Curative Workshop).

By the mid-1950’s, club members were concerned about affordable housing for seniors. It took 10 years, but in the mid-1960’s, Zonta Manor, a 14 story, $1.3 million passive solar apartment building on East Cambridge, designed by Zontian Lillian Leenhouts, was dedicated. The $52,500 raised by the Club is equivalent to $396,000 in 2015 dollars! The building had 65 one bedroom apartments and 39 efficiency units.

In February of 1958, Club members met with representatives of four other women’s service clubs, Altrusa, Pilot, Quota, and Soroptimist and interviewer Mary Ann Lemay of WISN to present their community service project. The Club’s housing for senior citizens was presented in pantomime by Frieda Mueller.

The Milwaukee Journal reported that “Led by Charlotte Partridge with the same inspired zeal that built her Layton School of Art to fame, Milwaukee, Wis. Zontians held to their dream of a splendid retirement home for individuals of independent spirit but not truly “independent income.” Incorporated on a non-profit basis with a board of 15 Zontians, ground was purchased and cleared with $52,500 raised by the club, and Zonta Manor was constructed with a $1,300,000 loan from the U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency. In May it was ready to admit its first tenants-men and women at least 62 years old, with an income less than $6,000.”

Zontian Member-Directors of Zonta Manor 1965 SEATED: Freida Mueller, Florence Medaris (President), Charlotte Partridge, Marjorie Taylor, Madge Hoffman (Treas.), Ella Lambert, Justine Weyher. STANDING: Dorothy Sevedge, Helen Brachman and Louise Marie Newman.

Zontian Member-Directors of Zonta Manor 1965     SEATED: Freida Mueller, Florence Medaris (President), Charlotte Partridge, Marjorie Taylor, Madge Hoffman (Treas.), Ella Lambert, and Justine Weyher. STANDING: Dorothy Sevedge, Helen Brachman and Louise Marie Newman.

Zonta Manor Ground Breaking

Groundbreaking ceremony with Zontian Charlotte Partridge

This was a very stressful and challenging time for the Club. For a time, the Club was saddled with a $1,290,000 mortgage when Milwaukee’s Housing
authority was not granted federal funds to purchase it. The original loan was to be paid off in 50 years at 3% interest. Had it not been transferred in December 1967 to the American Baptist Service Corporation, our Club would have been responsible for this loan well into the 21st century! This was a very complicated procedure since, under the terms of the original federal loan, the Club could not sell the building but could only transfer title to a party assuming the obligations of the loan.

Model Interior

Model Interior

Cambridge Apartments

Today, Zonta Manor is Cambridge Apartments.