History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - People - Bios

Joe Feldhausen


Primary Involvements:

Religious leader





Father Joseph Feldhausen was a native of the Milwaukee area, and attended St. Francis Seminary High School. After spending two years at Marquette University, he transfered to the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee where he earned a B.A. and M.S.W. in social work. It was during these years at the university that Feldhausen became involved in numerous civil rights and social aid projects, including the Groppi open housing marches and free health clinics.

In 1967 a group of young people started meeting at his apartment to "rap" on the gospel. The group grew to 40 by October and included people from the neighborhood and from other parts of the city. That's when they formed St. Nicholas Orthodox Parish. The members, from every religious background, elected Feldhausen to be ordained: the tradition in Russia, Greece and the Slavic countries. After passing his canonical exams, he was ordained by Archbishop Gregory of the Ukranian Orthodox diocese in Chicago in March of 1968.

By April of 1968 the group had grown to 60 people, so they bought a house at 1155 N. 21st Street in Milwaukee- and by fall had 80 members.

At first others in the parish were not aware that Feldhausen was gay; he and his lover, Joe Kelly, went to great extremes to make sure no one knew. Then Feldhausen started reading about gay liberation in the underground press, and after writing an article for the all gay issue of Kalediscope, the parish members became aware of his sexuality. Most of the straight people left the parish, and the parish shifted to more awareness of orthodoxy.

Father Feldhausen made major news when, on Christmas Day 1971, he married a lesbian couple, Donna Burkett and Manonia Evans, who had in October walked into the Office of the Milwaukee County Clerk to apply for a marriage license. Milwaukee County Clerk Thomas Zablocki refused to accept their application, saying that Wisconsin statutes prohibited the marriage of persons of the same sex. The marriage was attended by 250 friends and family members.


Article in UWM Post, Nov. 19, 1971

Profile in GPU News, March 1972, pg 12

Concl. of article in GPU News, March 1972, pg 13

Credits: initial page creation by Don Schwamb;
Last updated: May-2012.