1. Reese, William J. “‘Partisans of the Proletariat’: The Socialist Working Class and the Milwaukee Schools, 1890-1920”. History of Education Quarterly. 1981 Spring; 21(1):3-50. Notes: You won’t want to miss this fascinating look at how the Socialist working class in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, brought about changes in the public school system in Milwaukee during the Progressive era in the United States. In this award-winning article, by using “a social analysis of organized labor, socialism, and the Milwaukee schools during the Progressive era” (p. 3), the author argues against the generally-accepted academic interpretation that most early twentieth-century school reforms during the Progressive period were largely imposed upon the public schools through the mechanism of a new “professional” group of conservative and middle-class school officials.Instead, Reese explores the relationship between the Milwaukee Federated Trades Council (founded in 1887 to represent the skilled trade uniontists in the city) and Branch One of the Social Democratic Party of America (founded in Milwaukee in 1897 after the Socialists in Milwaukee had been forced out of Wisconsin’s Populist Party due to their more leftist political orientation) and how the two groups worked together to effect changes in the local schools. Included in the first platform of Milwaukee’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) was a demand for free textbooks for poor children and by 1909 the SDP had elected a member to the school board in Milwaukee.The author also details how the Socialist workers allied themselves over time in a fruitful coalition with various Milwaukee voluntary associations and civic groups, mostly composed of middle-class women who had been inspired by the social activism of the Progressive era. Reese explains how such civic associations campaigned for school reforms as an over-all strategy to bring about improvements in the lives of those living in poverty; examples of some of their programs include distribution of free clothes and food to school children, better sanitation in the schools, smaller class sizes, provision of school libraries, opening up the school buildings as community centers, direct election of school board members, and encouraging better environmental conditions about school buildings. Eventually, this willingness to partner with such middle-class groups to achieve such concrete improvements led to the Milwaukee Socialists being given the approbation of “Sewer Socialists” by Socialists in other parts of the country.

    It is impossible to innumerate all of the interesting points of discussion in this article ranging from the effective political use of “indignation meetings” as a protest technique (p. 26); the news that Milwaukee had a Girl’s Trade School (p. 32); and, that during the World War I period, even the local school children were pressured to sign “loyalty oaths” in their classes (p. 36).

    “This paper received the Henry Barnard Prize of The History of Education Society (1978-79).”- p. 3.