The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Joanne Alter

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Joanne Alter until we are able to commission a full entry.

When she challenged Chicago politicians to put a woman’s name on the ballot, Joanne Alter never expected the name would be her own. Realizing how absent women were from the American political landscape, Alter started the Illinois Democratic Women's Caucus to encourage women to run for office. In the first televised coverage of the nominations process in Chicago, she pointed out that on a ballot of 32 candidates, there were no women’s names, spurring Mayor Daley to invite her to run. She became the first woman to win countywide election, winning a million votes as the Elected Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and breaking the glass ceiling for women in Chicago politics. She served two terms on the Democratic National Committee. After her retirement from politics, she co-founded WITS (Working In The Schools), an innovative tutoring and mentoring program serving children in Chicago public schools.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Joanne Alter." (Viewed on September 23, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/alter-joanne>.

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