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Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson Reading Room Dedication | Wisconsin Historical Society

Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson Reading Room Dedication

Shirley Abrahamson, the first woman to be appointed as a Justice of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, takes her oath. WHI IMAGE ID 98857

Shirley Abrahamson, the first woman to be appointed as a Justice of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, takes her oath. WHI IMAGE ID 98857

Legacy Committee Naming and Dedication of Retired Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson Reading Room

With the support of Governor Tony Evers, the Wisconsin Historical Society Library Reading Room is to be named in honor of Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. The naming will celebrate Chief Justice Abrahamson’s accomplishments and her important role in Wisconsin’s history.

Overview

This year marks the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. On June 10, 1919, Wisconsin became the first state to ratify the 19th amendment, which granted national suffrage to women. In August, Governor Evers will sign an executive order naming the Society’s Library Reading Room in honor of Chief Justice Abrahamson. In issuing this order, Governor Evers stated, “With the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, I can think of no better way to honor the historic contributions women have made to our state, including the legacy of the first woman appointed to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. As a lawyer, a professor of law, and member of our Supreme Court, Justice Abrahamson has served our state and our country with honor and distinction.”

The Library Reading Room was completed in 1901 and restored in 2010. The bright, airy, 5,568-square-foot, two-story high architectural centerpiece offers a comfortable place to study or do research. Chief Justice Abrahamson frequented the Library Reading Room as a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and throughout her career.

Historical Significance

Chief Justice Abrahamson paved the way for future leaders through her dedication to the fair and equal administration of justice. After becoming the first woman to be appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1976, she went on to serve four 10-year terms. Her 43 years as a justice—and the first female chief justice—amounted to the longest term in Wisconsin’s history. Throughout her career, Chief Justice Abrahamson wrote hundreds of opinions and dissents, established volunteer programs within the justice system, and helped elevate Wisconsin’s court system to the national stage.

Her influence remains both inside and outside of the courtroom, with national recognition for her service, scholarship, and innovation. In a statement honoring Chief Justice Abrahamson, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, “She has inspired legions of law graduates to follow in her wake—to pursue justice, equal and accessible to all.” Chief Justice Abrahamson has inspired countless others to follow her lead, and her legacy will continue to shape the next generation of leaders to come.

Dedication

The Reading Room Dedication Project Committee, co-chaired by Senator Tammy Baldwin and Justice Janine Geske, seeks to honor Chief Justice Abrahamson with a dedication ceremony and academic award.

  • A celebratory event will be held at the Society's Reading Room to unveil its naming for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and recognize her as a Wisconsin leader.
  • An online virtual exhibit will be unveiled at the dedication event and made available to the public. This resource will serve to educate others about Chief Justice Abrahamson's life, legacy, and impact.
  • The annual Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson Prize will award $1,000 to two law students with interest and burgeoning expertise related to social justice and guaranteeing equal rights for all Americans. Carrying Chief Justice Abrahamson’s name, this award will honor her legacy of leadership and commitment to justice by supporting the education of emerging leaders who embody her values of integrity and equal rights. Awardees must meet the following criteria:
    • Graduating law student with excellence in academics
    • Attending the University of Wisconsin Law School or Marquette University Law School
    • Nominated and chosen by the law school (based upon their own award processes)
    • Demonstrated commitment to issues relating to social justice and the championing of equal rights

"I can think of no better way to honor the historic contributions women have made to our state, including the legacy of the first woman appointed to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. As a lawyer, a professor of law, and member of our Supreme Court, Justice Abrahamson has served our state and our country with honor and distinction."

- Governor Tony Evers

PARTNERS

  • American Constitution Society
  • Association of Women Lawyers
  • Madison Jewish Federation
  • Marquette University Law School
  • Milwaukee Jewish Federation
  • University of Wisconsin Law School
  • Wisconsin African American Lawyers Association
  • Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association
  • Wisconsin Civil Justice Education Foundation

COMMITTEE

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, Co-Chair
Former Justice Janine Geske, Co-Chair
Christine Bremer Muggli
Amy Bogost
Benjamin Wagner
 

All donations to this committee will support the dedication, educational exhibit, and award of excellence in honor of Chief Justice Abrahamson.

 
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We are proud to be the fiscal agent for the Reading Room Dedication Project Committee and celebrate Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. The Wisconsin Historical Foundation is a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization that supports the Wisconsin Historical Society through private contributions and its membership program.