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.

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