Mary Wark Wolkonsky

Conceived by Chicagoan Mary Ward Wolkonsky, Know Your Chicago was originally envisioned as an annual training course for women in positions of leadership in the city. The lectures and tours were meant to provide insight into the forces and institutions that shape Chicago and thus enhance the scope and depth of the women’s work, which was primarily volunteer work at that time.

The first tour season of 1949 was organized by Mrs. Wolkonsky and representatives from the Women’s College Board, an organization which vigorously promoted higher education for women at the time. Shortly thereafter, representatives from a number of civic organizations such as the League of Women Voters were added to the planning board.


Currently, the season of lectures and tours are planned and executed by a board of fifty women, distinguished by their service in civic, cultural, and charitable endeavors. In partnership with the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, the Know Your Chicago program aims to promote civic awareness and participation with the hope that participants will turn this special combination of access and information into action as they become better informed citizens.

The Know Your Chicago program has introduced its participants to a remarkably broad array of topics and behind-the-scenes tours pertinent to their city. View descriptions of past seasons from 1949 to 2007.

Image of Mary Ward Wolkonsky provided by the University of Chicago Photographic Archive, apf7-01518, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. Copyright held by Chicago Maroon.

Past Tour Resources and Brochures


Choose a year to view more information.

  • In observance of the COVID-19 pandemic, Know Your Chicago did not produce any tours for 2020. We wish you continued curiosity and health for 2021.

Thank you for spending your Autumn with us! If you’re interested in finding out more about the organizations we visited, please take a moment to review the online resources below.

Tour 1: Reinventing Legendary Structures

Thank you to all of our outstanding speakers and partner organizations. Find out more about the organizations below.

Tour 2: Rosenwald: The Remarkable Legacy of a Retail Giant

North Lawndale/Homan Square Panel at DRW:

  • Ellen Moiani, Manager of Government and Community Affairs, Noble Network of Charter Schools
  • John Oharenko, Principal at Real Estate CAPITAL Investors. Author: Historic Sears, Roebuck and Co. Catalog Plant.
  • Kevin Sutton, Executive Director of the Foundation for Homan Square
  • Blanche Suggs Killingworth, North Lawndale Historical and Cultural Society

Bronzeville Panel at former Wabash Y:

  • Daniel Schulman, Program Director/Visual Art, Dept of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, City of Chicago. Curator, Author of A Force for Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund.
  • Virginia Pace, Founder and President, Lightengale Group. Coordinated funding of Rosenwald Court apartments restoration.
  • Barbara Bowman, Co-founder of Erikson Institute. Expert in early childhood education. Daughter of Robert Rochon Taylor, manager of Rosenwald Court apartments. Granddaughter of Robert Robinson Taylor, architect of Tuskegee Institute hired by Booker T Washington.

Bronzeville Panel at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, formerly Chicago Sinai:

  • John Levi, Great grandson of Rabbi Emil Hirsch, attorney at Sidley and serves as the Chairman of the Legal Services Corporation.
  • Rabbi Seth Limmer at Sinai Temple (Tuesday)
  • Rabbi Evan Moffic at Solel Temple (Wednesday)

Esteemed Guests:

  • Peter Ascoli, (Know Your Chicago Symposium speaker and tour attendee) Grandson of JR. Author: Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the South.
  • Aviva Kempner, Rosenwald Filmmaker
  • Stephanie Deutsch, (Know Your Chicago Symposium speaker): Spouse of JR’s great Grandson. Author: You Need A School House: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the building of Schools for the Segregated South.
  • Patricia Abrams, Founder and Executive Director of The Renaissance Collaborative in the former Wabash YMCA.

Tour 3 & 6: Behind the Curtain

Many thanks to the organizations and speakers that joined us across both of our theatre Tours. Find out more about the organizations we visited and learned from below.

Tour 4: Museum Exhibit Design From Concept to Creation

The Adler Planetarium connects people, communities, and institutions to one another through the wonder of space science so we can explore our Universe together and use our collective knowledge and skills to create a better world for everyone.

The Field Museum takes part in groundbreaking research all over the world while maintaining one of the world's largest collections of artifacts and specimens, used to inspire discovery, spark public engagement with science, and uncover solutions for a better world.

The Shedd Aquarium sparks compassion, curiosity and conservation for the aquatic animal world and promotes a world thriving with aquatic life, sustained by people who love, understand and protect it.

Tour 5: Art All Ways: Collectors, Collections, Collecting

Many thanks to the organizations we visited and the speakers who taught us along the way, especially:

Tour 1: On the Autism Spectrum: Managing Life's Challenges

Tour 2: South Shore: The History, Architecture, and Spirit of a Storied Neighborhood

Tour 3: Literacy: A Human Right

Tour 4: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (Hopefully)

Tour 5: Englewood Rising: Changing the Story

Organizations in Englewood that you can support to make a difference

Tour 1: The Journey Home: Our Veterans Return

Tour 2: Homeless in Chicago: Not By Choice

Tour 3: Reversing a Reputation: The Chicago River

Tour 4: They’ve Got Your Back: Planning for Catastrophes

Tour 5: The Business of Retail: Bricks, Clicks, Today’s New Mix

Tour 1: Navy Pier at 100: Reimagining the People's Pier

Tour 2: East Meets West in Medicine: Collision or Coalition

Tour Presenters

Tour 3: Heroin HIGHway: Road to Recovery

Tour 4: Architects of Global Knowledge

  • Info coming soon.

Tour 5: 21st Century Policing

  • Info coming soon.

2015 KYC Brochure2015 Brochure

2015 Symposium Program

Tour 1: Big Ideas on the Prairie: Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park

Tour 2: Nothing Like A Dame...Women Who Changed Chicago

Tour 3: International Baccalaureate: Increase Your IB IQ!

Tour 4: Hip Hop in Chicago: What It Is & Why It Matters

Panel Speakers:

Tour 5: Made in Chicago: A Manufacturing Renaissance

2014 KYC Brochure2014 Brochure

2014 Symposium Program

Tour One: Transitioning: Parks and More Than Recreation

Tour Two: Sweet Home Chicago: Problems and Promises of Public Housing

Tour Three: Reel Chicago

Tour Four: Transitioning: Challenging Our Understanding of Gender

Tour Five: Haiti: History, Culture, and Vodou/Voodoo

2013 KYC Brochure2013 Brochure

2013 Symposium Program

Bringing Drug Discovery to Life

If you would like to help support research in women’s health issues by supplying data, not money, consider being part of a database at the Illinois Women’s Health Registry. You could even choose to be part of a clinical study. Your data could help support the research of Dr. Teresa Woodruff.

Cracking the Case: Solving Art Crimes & Mysteries in Chicago

From the Great Wall to the Great Lakes

The Architects Tell Their Story: Logan to Roosevelt to Gratz

The Transformation of Hyde Park

KYC Brochure 20092009 Brochure

2009 Symposium Program

Lords of Vice: Inside Chicago’s Gangs

Spreading the News: From Print to Internet

The Real Pandemic: Diabetes

Gotta Have Art

ABC’s of Early Childhood Development