The Vernon County Historical Society’s annual Cemetery Walk will be held this year on Sunday, June 13, at the Viroqua Cemetery, beginning at 2 p.m. at the gate. Tours will be offered on the hour at 2, 3, and 4 p.m., with the event concluding at 5 p.m. Costumed actors from the Viroqua Community Theatre will portray people who lived here a century or more ago. Suggested donation is $5, with proceeds going to the Vernon County Historical Society and the Viroqua Community Theatre.
The theme of this year’s walk is “Hidden Stories of Viroqua’s Diversity." That diversity includes strong female characters whose accomplishments have perhaps been forgotten over the years. Elizabeth Rice and Lillian Proctor were two women active in the Viroqua community long ago, and both will be featured in this year’s Cemetery Walk.
Elizabeth Chapman Slade Rice, usually known as Lizzie Rice, was a businesswoman. She operated a meat market in Viroqua with her first husband in the 1860s and 1870s, and opened a restaurant on Main Street when he died in the 1880s. In the 1890s, she had her own building constructed on Main Street, the Rice building, where she operated her restaurant, ice cream parlor, and boarding house.
Lillian Jussen Proctor lived in Viroqua in the early 1900s with her husband Harold, a lawyer. In 1924, just four years after the majority of women in the U.S. won full suffrage rights, Lillian ran for the office of Assembly Member, to represent Vernon County. She was for Prohibition (which had become law a few years earlier) and against the Ku Klux Klan (a very active organization in the 1920s), and she was a supporter of Wisconsin progressive Bob La Follette for President. Lillian didn’t win the election, and returned to private life, where she had a career running a knitwear business.
You can learn more about women’s suffrage and women politicians from the new exhibit, “We Stand on Their Shoulders: A History of Wisconsin Women and Voting." Created by the Wisconsin Historical Society, this traveling exhibit will be on display in the conference room at the Vernon County Museum from June 14 through June 26 during regular museum hours.
Also featured in the conference room will be the Smithsonian’s traveling poster exhibit, “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence”; the National Archives’ pop-up exhibit, “Rightfully Hers”; our own exhibit on women’s suffrage in Vernon County; and the silent auction of items created for our Stitching for Suffrage Challenge.
Museum hours for the summer are Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by appointment. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-637-7396 to make an appointment.