Meta Berger

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Meta Berger as she appeared in 1911, at the time of her husband's election to the United States Congress.

Meta Berger (née Schlichting; February 23, 1873 – June 16, 1944) was a prominent female socialist organizer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and advocate for improved public schooling systems. She was also the wife of the prominent democratic socialist politician Victor L. Berger.[1]


Early years[edit]

Meta Schlichting was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to parents from Germany on February 23, 1873.[2] She was educated at the Wisconsin State Normal School (now the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee). She taught primary school for three years before resigning in 1897 to marry Victor Berger.

Political career[edit]

Meta Berger 1909

In 1909, Berger was elected to the Milwaukee school board. As a school board member, she supported progressive measures such as the construction of playgrounds, "penny lunches" and medical exams for children. She also advocated on behalf of teachers, working for tenure, a fixed-salary schedule and a pension system. Re-elected in 1915, Berger won three more times, serving a total of 30 years.

In 1917, Berger joined the Milwaukee Emergency Peace Committee, a group that tried to prevent U.S. Navy recruiters from targeting schoolchildren.[3]

Her work for the school board led to her appointments to the Wisconsin State Board of Education, the Wisconsin Board of Regents of Normal Schools, and University of Wisconsin Board of Regents.

The Bergers spent much of the 1920s traveling in Asia and Germany. After her husband's death in 1929, Berger remained on the school board until 1939, and was considered a potential candidate for vice-president in the Socialist Party in 1932. However, Berger left the Socialist Party in 1940 because of her involvement in communist organizations.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Berger died at her Thiensville farm on June 16, 1944, aged 71. She is interred in Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.[5]


  1. ^ Swanson, Kimberly (2005). "A Milwaukee Woman's Life on the Left: The Autobiography of Meta Berger". In McBride, Genevieve G. (ed.). Women's Wisconsin: From Native Matriarchies to the New Millennium. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society.
  2. ^ [1]"Meta Schlichting was born in Milwaukee in 1873 to parents who came to the city from Germany during their childhood. Schlichting's father, Bernard, who served on Milwaukee's school board, hired Victor Berger to teach German."
  3. ^ Reese, William J. (1986). Power and the Promise of School Reform: Grassroots Movements during the Progressive Era. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-8077-4227-3.
  4. ^ "Meta Schlichting Berger | Encyclopedia of Milwaukee". Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  5. ^ "Historical People". Forest Home Cemetery. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Berger, Meta S. and Kimberly Swanson. A Milwaukee Woman's Life on the Left: The Autobiography of Meta Berger. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 2001.
  • Berger, Victor L. and Meta S. Berger. The Family Letters of Victor and Meta Berger, 1894-1929. Michael E. Stevens with Ellen D. Goldlust-Gingrich, eds. Madison: Center for Documentary History, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1995.
  • Berger, Meta (1936). I Saw Russia: Socialism in the Making. New York City: American Friends of the Soviet Union. Retrieved 30 March 2017.

External links[edit]