Catharine Beecher was truly the founding spirit of Milwaukee-Downer College, and dominated its development the first twenty years in that city. Prior to this fund, no building nor memorial of any sort reminds us of the part played by this remarkable woman. Eldest in the family of famous Beechers: the judge, preachers, teachers and anti-bellum reformers, Catharine served her mission to women through higher education. She authored The Beecher Plan, which included raising endowment, training faculty, and installing curriculum to raise the level of education for women to that currently offered at the collegiate level to men. In 1849 she was invited to Milwaukee by Increase Lapham and Lucy Ann Parsons. Contracts were signed and Beecher implemented her plan the following year, in 1850. With her vast energy and driving power she rallied the Milwaukee community, raised local funds, and created a national association—the American Women’s Educational Association—for ongoing financial support. Her ideas thrived, if not all of her schools. Of her numerous schools in Hartford, Cincinnati, Quincy, Milwaukee and Dubuque, the one in Milwaukee best survived the test of time. Still educating women as Downer College of Lawrence University, Beecher’s brainchild is one of the oldest continuously operating institutions for women’s higher education in the nation.
The Catharine Beecher Endowed Fund for Downer Women was established in 2010 and renamed in 2011 by Milwaukee-Downer alumnae celebrating their milestone reunions. It will provide scholarships in perpetuity for female students. Through these scholarships, alumnae recognize the richness and value of their gift from the past, thank the courageous women who paved the way before them, and pass the heritage on to future Downer women at Lawrence University.
All proceeds from the book orders will go to the Catherine Beecher Endowed Fund.
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