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Mildred Fish Harnack was born on September 16, 1902 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 5:30am to Georgina and William Fish. The birth certificate found on microfilm at the Milwakee Public Library has her name written in as Matie, with no middle name, instead of Mildred Elizabeth. The birth itself was officially registered a month later (not uncommon in those days), which explains the October 31, 1902 date stamped on the document.
[Microfilm: photocopy] Microfilm #130 R929.3-M661R c001, Milwaukee County (Wis.) Registrar of Deeds/Registrar of Births, vol. 345-347, 1902. Courtesy of Milwaukee Public Library,
1921: Back in Wisconsin
Mildred Fish was born and raised in Wisconsin. She attended West High school in Milwaukee, but finished up her last year in Washington D.C. at Western High School. It was not until she made the transfer to the University of Wisconsin – Madison after her first year at George Washington University, that she once again resided in her native Wisconsin.
The documents displayed below are credit transfer requests, filled out in 1921, in order to continue her studies at the UW (Madison).
Part of Mildred’s admission documentation contained a letter asking the University to waive the out-of-state tuition fee. In the letter, residency status is asked for based on the fact that her mother had kept their house in Milwaukee even after moving to Washington D.C., therefore in retaining residency in Wisconsin. Mildred’s admission document to the University of Wisconsin for the 1921-1922 is also displayed.
1922-1924: Wisconsin Literary Magazine
The Wisconsin Literary Magazine was a forum for UW (Madison) students to publish writings. It provided a chance to become active in the editing and publishing of a student-run literary journal. Mildred Fish made contributions to the magazine both as a writer and an Assistant editor. The documents displayed here represent Mildred’s work, published in volume 22 and 23 of The Wisconsin Literary Magazine.
This short story, titled “Gold and Silver”, was published in the February 1923 issue of The Wisconsin Literary Magazine.
In this volume (June 1923, volume 22), Mildred Fish is both assistant editor and contributor to the magazine. The editor’s commentary lambastes the loss or sellout of college literary magazines and ends with a curious list of “literary Who’s Who”, which includes Mildred as “The arch laughter of a Y.W. secretary at a Blackhand soiree”.
In the October 1923 issue, Mildred wrote and submitted short stories and poems as well as participating, once again, as an assistant editor. The photo was taken during this same period.
1921-1925: UW (Madison) life
Besides being involved in a group called the “Friday-nighters”, she was a member of the French club (1924 Badger Yearbook). She became friends with Clara Leiser, who would later head the unsuccessful fight for a memorial to Mildred, as well as begin a poem in salute to Mildred and Arvid Harnack which has remained unfinished to this day.
1926-1927: Lifestyle changes
After Mildred graduated in 1925, she applied and was accepted into the University of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Letters and Science. During her graduate studies, she taught literature at the University. Shown here are her UW (Madison) employment records, as well as those of her future husband, Arvid Harnack.
During her time at UW-Madison, Mildred met, fell in love with, and married Arvid Harnack, a German man on fellowship at the University. The photo, taken in more recent years, shows the house in which the Harnacks lived while working at the University between the years of 1926 and 1927.