Dorothy Enderis is one of the great historical educational reformers in the history of adult education, community education, and recreation. Though she retired in 1948, her spirit continues to inspire adult educators today. She was a visionary and a pioneer in pairing education with recreation and extending learning to the larger community, and she saw in incorporating these an opportunity to educate and develop lives.
Her teaching career began in Milwaukee in 1909, a culturally diverse, unsafe, and dirty city crowded by industrialization, in great need of educational opportunities and reform. Her first teaching job was as a fourth grade teacher in a school known as the "Bloody Fifth." She saw her classroom as a miniature likeness of the neighborhood: multicultural and pluralistic where the children demonstrated the full range of responses to their diverse environment. This early teaching experience allowed her to understand the importance of the classroom connection to the neighborhood. By the time of her retirement in 1948, she had become the Assistant Superintendent of a Milwaukee Public School system that had grown to 32 social centers, 62 playgrounds, athletic programs, and citywide services.
Ms. Enderis received many honors and awards. Among her recognitions are a commendation by the Commissioner of Naturalization (1927), an award by the Cosmopolitan Club (1933), the Theodora Youmans Citizenship Award by the Wisconsin Federation of Women's Clubs (1936), Certificate of Distinctive Civic Service by Marquette University (1937), appointment to Civilian Advisory board for Women's Army Corps (1943), appointment by U.S. Department of Labor to the Committee on Leisure Services of the U.S. Children's Bureau (1944), and honorary Doctor of Recreation Service awarded by Carroll College (1944).
Because of her reforming efforts in providing safe places for the community to play and learn, Dorothy Enderis became widely known as "The Lady of the Lighted Schoolhouse." Her work stressed lifelong learning, reduced ethnic and class conflict, and stabilized social order and was built upon a foundation of economic, political, and social justice.
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