Someone once told Dorothy that she had “hung the moon,”…..
Dorothy Wolfe was born in Owosso, Michigan on April 4, 1913 to Dr. Andrew and Bertha “Birdie” Wolfe. On August 26, 1920 (Dorothy was only seven); her dad came home in his Model T Roadster and gave each of them a little American flag. Dorothy, along with her mom, dad, and older sister, Marjorie, marched around the front porch in Neenah cheering and singing as women had just won the right to vote. Two more sisters were born into her family Heidi and June Wolfe. Dorothy said that her biggest influence growing up was the YWCA in Neenah and Green Bay. They were very instrumental in her choosing social work as a career. Someone at the Wisconsin YWCA Leadership Conference said, “Anyone, with as much enthusiasm for life as you needs to be our representative. The women and experiences in the YWCA were instrumental to her life. Dorothy’s dad was an osteopath, known as “Doc Wolfe”, physician for the Green Bay Packers in the 1920’s. Dorothy remembered sitting in the cold winter winds next to her dad under a big bear skinned blanket. Whenever one of the football players was hurt, he would get up throw the blanket off his lap and run down to work on the player and the cold air would gust under the blanket. Dorothy attended church camp when she was sixteen years old. She was in a boat on Green Lake with several other campers when one of them said, “I’m bored. Let’s jump in.” So, Dorothy and a guy named Donald Clayton jumped in, clothes and all, laughing and yelling. This was the beginning of their romance. Only a handful of women graduated from college in 1937, Dorothy were one of them. After high school, she attended the University of Wisconsin and graduated with a degree in Sociology. She told of how exciting her education was. She was taught by some outstanding professors. One of which was Dr. John Bowlby, famous for his work with monkeys and attachment theory. She also studied with a professor of Art History. This is when she fell in love with art which became her life’s passion. After graduation she moved to Chicago and was hired as a social worker at Hull House. Hull House was co-founded by Jane Adams in 1889. It was “a community of university women” whose main purpose was to provide social and educational opportunities for working class people (many of them recent European immigrants). They held classes in literature, history, and art. Domestic activities such as concerts, lectures, and clubs were operated for both children and adults. Jane Adams and Hull House Settlement Movement were an empowering role models and life transforming experiences for Dorothy. Hull House’s philosophy and the wonderful immigrant children she taught deeply impacted her. While Dorothy was working at Hull House, Eleanor Roosevelt began a federally funded program to allow for women and men to work and attend high school, college, or graduate school. The Great Depression had devastated families and Eleanor wanted to support educating America’s youth. Dorothy entered graduate school at George Williams College as a participant in the work and education program. Eleanor Roosevelt, America’s first lady, invited the participants in this program to Washington DC to have tea with her. When Dorothy met Eleanor it changed her life again. Eleanor was working on setting up Leagues of Women voters in all communities across the United States. So while Dorothy was living in Moscow, Idaho she started a League of Women’s Voters. She was accused of being a communist, so they moved to another church in Brookings. In 1990, she was honored and given an award by the Moscow, Idaho community for her work in establishing their League of Women Voters. While working and attending graduate school in Chicago, she met John Dewey, and he deeply influenced her understanding of teaching children so that they developed the skills to value and support democracy. One day, she received a call from Donald, who had just graduated from Carroll College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and biology (he was also the captain of his undefeated and untied football team in 1938.). Don asked her to meet him as he had to make a very important decision. He had been invited to try out for the Philadelphia Eagles Football team and he was offered a graduate scholarship at McCormick Theological Presbyterian Seminary in Chicago. Remembering all the Green Bay Packers games when she sat next to her dad, she said to Don, “Why fall on your beautiful head and hurt your brains-I’d go to seminary, and service others.” On June 1, 1940, Dorothy Addicks Wolfe and Donald William Clayton married in Green Bay. In 1941, Don graduated with a bachelor of divinity degree in Chicago with a thesis on “Rediscovering the Adolescent”. He and Dorothy served in Presbyterian Churches as minister and minister’s wife and directors of student work on campuses in Tacoma, Nebraska. This is where their first child, Kristin Lynn Clayton (Krissy) was born (1942). David Holden Clayton was born 1945 in Milwaukee. Then Don was sent to serve as minister and director of student work of Northern Montana College in Havre. Here, their third child, Mary Addicks Clayton was born in 1948. They continued in their work and were relocated every four years to Moscow, Idaho; Brookings, South Dakota; and Volga, South Dakota with the Presbyterian Church. In SD Dorothy was inspired when she met Eleanor Roosevelt again at a state League of Women’s Voters conference. In 1955, don helped to establish WTTW Educational Television in Chicago. He was hired as the host/producer of “Totem Club”, a live daily program for youth. They moved to Park Forest, IL-a planned experimental community developed by the GI Bill to allow WWII veterans to raise their families, work and go to college. Dorothy worked with the League of Women Voters and help start nonpartisan government. Dorothy was hired as an elementary school teacher. She did experimental teaching and looped with the same children from kindergarten to second grade. Dorothy received a Career Teaching Award. Meeting John Dewey in Chicago in the late 1930s greatly influenced her method of teaching children so that they were capable citizens in a democratic society. She incorporated an artist, composer, and author each week with her children. They often visited the Art Institute of Chicago and during the Holiday season, the children would ask for reproductions of famous artists like Monet, Cassatt, or composers like Mozart and Chopin. Don would come to her classroom. They would do school in the forest preserve with her children. George Williams College invited Don to join his faculty team as a professor of group work in 1958. They also ran together family YMCA Camps in the summers to their children’s delight. On November 25, 1963 Krissy was killed in an automobile accident. Don officiated at her funeral in Park Forest and then again at Holly Funeral Home. Don sang “The Lord’s Prayer” a capella. They buried her next to her grandmother, Nonie Eleanor Clayton, in the Peterson plot. After Krissy died, Don founded, along with the director of the American Camping Association and two naturalists from the Natural History Museum in Chicago, a travel camp for high school students, with graduate students as counselors. Don and Dorothy and the others, including their children David and Mary caving in Missouri, studied native American villages in New Mexico and Arizona, shot the whitewater of the Salmon River in Idaho, climbed the Teton Mountains, hiked in the Supi Village in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and dug for dinosaur bones and discovered a skull in the dessert that was excavated and taken to the Natural History Museum in Chicago. Dorothy completed her M.ED in Early Childhood Education from Roosevelt University. She studied early childhood education in Scandinavia and moral development with Dr. Kohlberg at Harvard and Jean Piaget. Dorothy and Don retired to Waupaca to his Danish family homestead. Here, Dorothy’s desire to learn and inspire others, especially women, was now able to be her focus. During the next decade, Dorothy held offices in the AAUW Waupaca branch and at the state level. While President of the Waupaca branch, she worked with the WWN and passed the Martial Property Reform Law. Surveying of the needs of the women of Waupaca County, Dorothy found that domestic violence was the biggest problem the women of the county faced. Despite problems in the area, there were also things to be celebrated and Dorothy continued to work on them. In March 1982, President Reagan declared a Women’s History Week which turned into Women’s History Month by Congress. To commemorate this event the local SSUW helped sponsor a Women’s Shelf in the Waupaca area library. Every year Dorothy honored this month and donated a book by a woman scholar that pushed forward knowledge in the women’s studies, women’s history, or women as scientists, in AAUW’s name. Every year on March 8th, Dorothy sent flowers to women that she knew helped make a difference in the world. Dorothy joined the Democratic Party of Waupaca County at the age of 70. She believed that women must work in a party to make democracy work. In 1994 she was elected to the 6th Congressional District of the State Democratic party of Wisconsin’s Platform Committee and was re-elected n 1997 for another 3-year term. The Wisconsin Democratic Party adopted two resolutions authored by Dorothy. They were; 1) we measure the wealth of our country, not by the gross national product, but by the development of its people, and 2) we must live under the law globally-adopt the international criminal code. In June 2000, Dorothy was the AAUW chair at “The NGO Forum” Beijing +5 in New York City, and she came away from the conference glowing. This conference was a victory for her and others that held the same beliefs that women have rights and should be treated as equals. It was a big step in the right direction and Dorothy believed that someday, life will be different for women. In 2001, Dorothy attended the International Federation of University Women Conference in Canada. She read Peter Rabbit and other Beatrice Potter books which she collected with the figurines to the neighborhood children and at Waupaca schools and at the library. Dorothy passed away on August 12, 2010, at the age of 97, in the home that she built at age 90 called, “Elder House”. This home enabled her to enjoy being old and live independently. She named it, “In Pursuit of Happiness”. She leaves two children: David (Nancy) Clayton, Ph.D. of Wood Dale, IL; and Mary (John) Clayton Leiter of Myrtle Beach, SC. Five grandchildren: Jessica Clayton of Madison, WI; Sasha (Chrissy) Clayton of California; and Jonathan, Elizabeth and Kristin Leiter, of Manhattan, NY. Three great-grandchildren: Mathilda Rose Clayton and twin grandsons to be born this November, and one sister, Heidi Wood of Connecticut. She was preceded in death by a daughter, Kristin Lynn Clayton, her parents, and two sisters (Marjorie and June). A memorial has been established by The Class of 2011 in the name of Dorothy Wolfe Clayton Women’s Scholarship Fund, Waupaca High School Scholarship Foundation for Young Women Seniors to go to two or four year college. C/O Dr. Mary Clayton Leiter 914 Berlin Street, Waupaca, WI 54981. We will love you forever dear Dorothy, thank you!
A friend of Dorothy’s states: “Her actual age is 96, but you would never know it. Each time I see her she is filled with vitality and her zest for life fills the room and my heart. Dorothy has ‘hung the moon’ and so much more. The Maple Crest funeral Home of Waupaca assisted the family with arrangements.