Ulricka Zäske: Iron Woman
Everything the archives has on Ulricka derives from Milwaukee County census records and a couple items of oral tradition. There is some disagreement on spelling here, partly because census and church records were not careful about spelling and partly because German names were Anglicized inconsistently. Ulricke or Ulricka? Ziesmer or Ziesemer? The archives had both until Ulricka’s four great-grandsons found her gravestone in July 2007. It seemed right to allow Ulricka that final measure of control.
In July 2007, the four Nickel boys found Al and Megs Nickel buried buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Milwaukee. The Ziesemer stone for Leopold and Ulricka is on Joel’s side.
Ulricka is listed in the 1910 Milwaukee County census as the wife of Leopold Ziesemer, living at 406 West Street. She was 51 years old at the time of the census (Leopold was 45), and had been married 31 years (first marriage for both of them). She immigrated in 1883. Although Leopold is listed as a naturalized citizen, the census does not record Ulricka’s citizenship status.
Twenty years later, however, things had changed. Ulricka was still living at 406 West Street, according to the 1930 census, but Leopold was long dead. (Ulricka’s marital status is listed as “Wd.”) Ulricka was listed as the head of a three-generation household, owning a home worth $4,000. (The 1910 census said Leopold had owned his house without mortgage.) Living with her were her daughter Emma Last, 42 and Wisconsin-born, and Emma’s daughter Elvira Last, 14. Emma’s occupation was listed as “Cool-Make/Iron Foundry” her marital status was “Divorced.” Ulricka, 72 when the census was taken, is now listed as naturalized, although her immigration date is given as 1880. She was born in “Prussia-Germany,” with a Prussia-German father and a Pomeranian-German mother.
Ulricka was a woman of legendary dominance and iron will. There are two oral-tradition stories about her. First, she had a running battle with a man who lived next door, with whom she picked fights, at whom she ranted and against whom she always prevailed. One day, after yet another argument over the fence, Ulricka came into the house looking shocked and chastened. The guy had evidently stood his ground and then some. Asked what had happened, Ulricka stammered out, “Er hat mich ein Sonofabitch genannt” (He called me a son of a bitch).
Second, her granddaughter and her granddaughter’s husband, Fred Prefert, evidently lived with Ulricka for a time. Fred liked to listen to the radio. He also happened to be out of work. Ulricka, convinced that he was loafing, took a pair of scissors and cut the power cord to Fred’s radio. The resulting shock burned Ulricka’s hand. She later criticized him for eating too much candy — “Du hast aber einen Schleckerzahn” (You have a sweet tooth). Fred, who spoke no German, thought she was accusing him of drinking liquor and stormed out of the house.
From the Census Records:
1930: WI: Milwaukee Co: Milwaukee City; Ward 17; Block 1879 or 2879; ED 40-206; Sheet 16A [ancestry.com’s image 31 of 56]: Lines 49-50: #406 West St.; Dw 43; Fam 53:
Ziesemer, Ulricka; Head/Housekeeper; owns home worth $4000.;
[Sex/Race/Age/Marital Status:] F; W; 72; Wd;
[Born in/Father born/Mother born:] Prussia-Germany/Prussia-Germany/Pomern-Germany;
mother tongue: German; immig 1880/Naturalized; occupation: None.
Last, Emma M.; Daughter;
[Sex/Race/Age/Marital Status:] F; W; 42; D;
[Born in/Father born/Mother born:] WI/Prussia-Germany/Pomern-Germany; “Cool-Make”/Iron Foundry.
[Next page Sheet 16B: Line 51:]
Last, Elvira L.; Grand Daughter;
[Sex/Race/Age/Marital Status:] F; W; 14; S; WI/WI/WI; occupation: none.