Display honors UWM Children’s Learning Center’s 50th anniversary

The Golda Meir Library is helping celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UWM Children’s Learning Center with a history display on the second floor.

The display was put together by Rona Kader Wolfe, social justice educator at the children’s center, with archivist Abigail Nye and library staff.

Rona Kader Wolfe, social justice educator at the UWM Children’s Learning Center, reads to children next to a display about the center at the Golda Meir Library. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

It highlights the origins of the center and its roots in the need for on-campus child care in the early 1970s as more women came to the university and prepared to enter the workforce.  Looking at the past helped Wolfe see the connections between the work she now does as a social justice educator and the center’s past, she said.

“It’s fun to learn about the history of the center, but to dig into the why of it at that time period was very interesting to me. It had a radical beginning,” Wolfe said.

The center grew out of student families’ needs for child care and early childhood learning.  “It was important to learn not only where we came from, but why,” Wolfe said. “What were people looking for?  What was important? What were the big ideas?”

Children listen as a book is read. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

One of the items in the display is an excerpt from a student parent’s essay sums it up: “The time was right and the idea would not be denied.”

The display brings together items from the university’s archives as well as materials stored at the center. Among the exhibits in the display, for example, are letters to the university administration about making the space the center needed, and the center’s importance in helping students continue their studies.

Wolfe is an alumna with a degree in elementary and early childhood education. Her mother, Cheryl Kader, was on the faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies, and two of Wolfe’s four children are graduates and another is currently a student. “We are a Panther family.”

Some of the children currently at the center visited the display recently, taking the opportunity to enjoy Wolfe reading a couple of children’s books from 50 years ago – “Ira Sleeps Over” and “The Snowy Day.” The books give an idea of what people were thinking about in terms of families and values at the time, said Wolfe. The children listening to them half a century later were enthralled.

The display will be open during library hours through the end of the spring semester.

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