Handmade for Hard Times: The Milwaukee Handicraft Project
March 28–June 15, 2014
16" Twin Doll (Patsy), The Milwaukee Handicraft Project, Cloth, fiber, yarn, paint, late 1930s. Lent by Charles J. Waisbren, MD
The Milwaukee Handicraft Project (MHP), led by Elsa Ulbricht and her students from the Milwaukee State Teachers College, was one of the most innovative and successful Depression-era work programs in the US. Between late 1935 and early 1942, it employed around 5,000 women (and as many as 1,350 at its peak), teaching them how to make wooden and cloth toys, dolls, woodblock prints, furniture, fabrics, book binding and theatre costumes. These were then sold to State and County facilities such as schools, universities, libraries, parks, orphanages and even theatre groups. Ulbricht welcomed and implemented a diverse and integrated workforce, an unprecedented vision of openness that was most obviously manifested in the production of African-American dolls.