Women's History Month Featured Evanstonians
March is Women's History Month! Throughout the month, the City will feature Evanston women who've made an impact in the community.
Florence Dahl Walrath was born in Chicago in 1877. Shortly after graduating high school, Florence married attorney William Bradley Walrath and the couple moved to Evanston, where they raised four children.
In 1914, Florence’s sister, Ida, lost a child at birth, and Florence successfully worked to find her another child, Jane Hurlbut Foster, whose mother could no longer care for her. Over the years, Florence helped other couples make similar arrangements, and in 1923, she founded The Cradle, which provided adoption services and training. At the time, Florence and her staff were pioneers of the industry, incorporating intentional methods, such as sterile conditions, safe powdered formula, and parental counseling, to improve the quality of care.
To this day, The Cradle has helped place more than 15,000 children in permanent, loving homes, and is the only adoption agency in the nation with an on-site nursery. Its notable adoptive parents include George Burns and Gracie Allen, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Donna Reed, Pearl Buck and Gale Sayers. Jane Hurlbut Foster, the first "Cradle baby" and Florence’s niece, was actively involved in The Cradle, including serving on its board of directors, until her death in 2000.
Photo Courtesy of the Evanston Women’s History Project
According to the honorable Delores Holmes, her predecessor Mayme Finley Spencer was a "woman before her time." Mayme grew up in Milwaukee and attended Marquette University before moving to Chicago to work for Mt. Sinai Hospital. In 1957, she moved to Evanston alongside her husband, Community Hospital doctor and Evanston native Warren Frank Spencer.
In 1961, Mayme graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law and practiced law for the rest of her life, including joining an Evanston law firm, Stewart and May. In 1963, Mayme was elected the first African American female alderman, serving Evanston's 5th ward for five years.
Known as "Auntie Mayme," Spencer was a dedicated civil rights activist instrumental in the City’s fair housing ordinance, which allowed residents to "live anywhere [they] could afford to buy." Mayme was also involved in the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the ACLU, the Evanston Human Relations Council, the Noyes and Foster school PTAs, Northern Illinois University's Board of Trustees, and the Illinois Citizen Committee for Freedom of Residence. She was governor-appointed to the Illinois Board of Regents and the Illinois Commission on Race Relations.
On February 8, 2011, Mayme passed away at the age of 89. She and Warren, who passed in 1987, had four daughters, Clothield Miller, Wendy Michelle Spencer, Karen Kelly and Shelley Fitzsimmons, as well as eight grandchildren.
Photo Courtesy of Evanston Women’s History Project.
Evanston's Women City Council Members
The City of Evanston has joined governments and elected officials across the nation in celebrating the accomplishments and selfless service of elected women nationwide as part of Women in Public Office Day, March 19. Six of Evanston’s nine wards are represented by women on the City Council. Women serving on the Evanston City Council include:
- Ald. Judy Fiske (1st Ward), 2009 to present
- Ald. Melissa A. Wynne (3rd Ward), 1997 to present
- Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th Ward), 2017 to present
- Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th Ward), 2016 to present
- Ald. Ann Rainey (8th Ward), 1983 to 1993 and 1997 to present
- Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th Ward), 2017 to present
Susan Trieschmann is familiar with untraditional paths. A graduate of Deerfield High School, she attended college for the first time at age 48 at Oakton Community College. After two years, she transferred to DePaul University where, inspired by a class she accidentally took in restorative justice, she received a bachelor’s degree in social justice.
Trieschmann who, since the age of 13 has worked in the food service industry, started her own catering company, Food for Thought Enterprise, alongside her sister and brother-in-law, Nancy and Curt Sharp, at the age of 25. Trieschmann also notably served as the Director of Catering at the Pump Room and is an original member of Restorative Justice Evanston (RJE), which "promotes and supports restorative justice activities, such as Community Peace Circles."
However, Trieschmann is perhaps best known as the executive director of Curt’s Café, which she founded in 2012 and named after her late brother-in-law. Curt’s Café, which has two locations in the north and south of Evanston, trains at-risk youth between the ages of 15 and 24 for three months in four disciplines: life, intellectual, food service, and experiential skills. Curt's has a return-to-prison rate of 3 percent, compared to a state and national rate of more than 80 percent.
Trieschmann's meaningful impact on the community has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2017 Oakton Community College Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2018 Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA) Distinguished Alumnus Award, and a L'Oreal Paris Women of Worth honoree. In addition, Trieschmann presented at the 2015 Tedx event in Winnetka. She and her husband of 32 years, Tom, have two children, Trevor and Anna.