July 17, 1962, witnessed an event that changed the course of Wisconsin history. That day, Shirley Schlanger Abrahamson signed the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Roll of Attorneys. At age 28, she could finally fulfill her childhood dream of practicing law. She ultimately became Wisconsin’s first woman justice and first woman chief justice. When she retired from the legal profession 57 years later, she was the longest-serving state supreme court justice in Wisconsin and the nation.
In honor of the occasion, enjoy some words of wisdom from the Chief:
“I may be the first woman justice but I am clearly not the last.” –Attorney Shirley S. Abrahamson, 1976
“In 1961, the Constitution allowed wiretapping, school prayer, and illegally seized evidence to be admitted in court. Women could be thrown in jail for having abortions and could be excused from jury duty because of what was seen as their pivotal place in the American home. None of the Constitution’s wording has changed since then, but we’ve seen a big change in interpretation. It’s inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing.” –Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, 1987
“If you want to take the law into your own hands, hug a judge.” –Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, 2008
“The future of the justice system depends largely on the public’s continued confidence in the courts. When the courts truly serve the community, public trust in the justice system will grow.” –Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, 1996
“The toughest decision I’ve made is whether to give my kid the car keys when he was 16.” –Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, 1998
“I hope this election is not going to be about aerobics. I have been introduced across the state as Shirley ‘The Body’ Abrahamson.” –Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson, 1999
“The need for an independent judiciary, both in this state and in the country, has never been greater. As partisan sentiment escalates beyond productive to poisonous, so too does the importance of a neutral and fair judicial branch, at every level, from municipal courts to trial courts and the appellate court system.” –Justice Abrahamson, 2019
For archival photos and videos, stories, quotes, opinions, and more visit www.shirleyabrahamson.org. Guess what? While the Chief may no longer be with us, you can still follow her on social media, using the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram buttons here.
Photo credits: Second image: Wisconsin Historical Society ID 49705; Sixth image: Amber Arnold, Wisconsin State Journal.