8. Escaping from The Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Milwaukee
Settled mostly by German farmers seeking cheap land in the 19th century, Milwaukee evolved into an industrial center that acted like a northern suburb of Chicago roughly 80 miles to the south. Breweries littered the city and at one time, there were more drinking establishments per capita than anywhere else in the world. Poles, Russians, Bohemians, Irish, and French Europeans arrived in droves to work in the breweries and factories. Wages reflected the rest of the nation in that they were low and despite working 14 hour days, families remained in poverty.
As industry overtook Milwaukee, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd established a home for “wayward girls, and children.” Behind the high walls the inmates were forced to pray and wash linens for area hotels without pay. The nuns provided a religious education and some inmates professed that all they learned was how to pray and “fold sheets.” During a heatwave in 1947, inmates protested their conditions by locking themselves in the laundry rooms, trashing the equipment, and demanding their release to a state facility. Some girls escaped by climbing over the 12 foot stone wall to freedom. The facility closed in the mid-1960s.