Reverend Herman L. Fritschel, a Lutheran pastor, was elected the first president of the association in 1920. Rev. Fritschel led WHA’s board of trustees from 1920-26 and again from 1941-42. That board set the organization’s agenda throughout the year. Rev. Fritschel was a key figure in early hospital administration in Wisconsin: he was the director of the Milwaukee Hospital from 1902 to 1943, helped found the hospital’s School of Nursing in 1903, and oversaw numerous expansions of the hospital in his 41 years of administration.
WHA’s top elected position of president stood out often during the early-to-mid 1900s, as the state’s hospitals selected both male and female leadership for the association. In 1938 WHA installed its first female president: Grace T. Crafts, RN, superintendent and administrator of Madison General hospital. In an article published when Grace died in 1954 was this impressive description: “As superintendent and administrator of Madison General hospital, she operated this institution with firmness and steel-like determination, yet with dignity and care and tender understanding. She was given credit for making possible the long-dreamed, long-planned, and long-struggled for expansion of hospital facilities.”
Since 1938, 11 other women have served as president/chair of WHA – with the position eventually evolving into today’s more familiar chair of the WHA Board of Directors. WHA has had 80 Board chairs from 1920-2020, including 68 men and 12 women.
See the list of WHA Board Chairs here