Department of Employee Trust Funds
May 1, 2013
70 Years of State Employee Pension Benefits
In May, 1943, legislation creating a retirement system for State
of Wisconsin employees became law. Many consider Ingeborg Sidwell
to be the catalyst for the system to become reality. Sidwell was
a state employee who, along with several other women, scrubbed the
Wisconsin State Capitol floors. She was almost 80 years old and
wanted to retire, but knew it would be difficult, as she had lost
much of her savings when the banks failed in the 1930s.
That spring, when Gov. Walter Goodland vetoed a bill to establish
a state employee retirement system, Sidwell worried about what would
happen to her and her coworkers. Many were elderly and most had
medical problems. So, she sought out the governor and asked him
to reconsider his decision to veto the legislation.
Soon after they met, the governor told the legislature he was
“changing his mind” and asked that they override his
veto. Whether Sidwell’s chat with the governor made the difference
is unknown. The vote to override was swift and nearly unanimous
(just one dissenter).
According to newspaper accounts, Gov. Goodland originally vetoed
the bill to delay its cost until after the war.
Sidwell retired on a monthly pension of $14.70; she died in 1947
at the age of 84.
Other Links of Interest
Retirement System - Informational Paper 83 prepared by the Wisconsin
Legislative Fiscal Bureau (January 2013)