Josephine Hintgen's Jacket

La Crosse County Historical Society

La Crosse County Historical Society

Emily Patwell

Catalog Number: 1981.042.01

This week’s thing that matters is a green and gold silk brocade evening jacket from the 1920s.

Its motifs of cherries and leaves is woven with metallic threads, making it even more elegant and dressy.

Its owner, Josephine Hintgen, would have worn it over her evening clothes to special occasions, or perhaps to meetings with the Vocational Guidance Association, National Guidance Association, or the Board of the La Crosse Child Guidance Clinic, all of which she belonged to.

Few have done more to advance the educational system of La Crosse than Hintgen, a pioneer of the local guidance system.

Hintgen staunchly believed that students could achieve more with a counselor to guide them, that each student had unique strengths and passions, and that every student deserved to achieve full academic potential, no matter how bleak the situation. With these beliefs, she helped forge the guidance system into what it is today.

Born in La Crosse in 1892, Hintgen was a well-educated woman.

In addition to attending La Crosse High School and La Crosse State Teachers College, she sought further education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harvard University, and several other higher education institutions including Stanford, Oxford and Wellesley.

Early in her career, she taught middle and high school. However, after taking a course at UW-Madison, Hintgen gained an interest in guidance work. She took her first guidance position as an attendance and vocational guidance supervisor for the School District of La Crosse circa 1920 — about the same time she would have acquired this jacket.

During the early 1920s, the school system struggled with students who were repeatedly truant or tardy, were dropouts or who needed to repeat grades.

There was a growing movement in the district that expressed the belief that schools needed to “teach children, not school,” and Hintgen was a firm supporter of this movement.

She was among the first in the guidance program to take a keen interest in the varied capacities, strengths, experiences and home situations of the students in her guidance program. She also addressed the inadequacies of the existing guidance system by bringing awareness to teachers, guidance counselors and concerned parents.

Hintgen’s many contributions to the La Crosse school system, which included exploratory and occupational preparatory courses, achievement testing and the Stay in School program, resonate with today’s guidance system.

She would continue to champion improvements to guidance systems throughout her career, even acting as a guest lecturer at UW-Madison. Eventually, Hintgen became the director of guidance and later assistant superintendent of the school district.

She was so beloved that a local elementary school, Hintgen Elementary, was named in her honor. Though she died Feb. 14, 1981, her legacy lives.

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on October 13, 2018.

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