Abrahamson talks about challenges women face in law.

Byline: Erika Strebel, erika.strebel@wislawjournal.com

In a rare public appearance outside the Wisconsin Supreme Court's chambers, Justice Shirley Abrahamsonspoke during a lecture at the University of Wisconsin Law Schoolabout her experiences as both ajudge and a lawyer.

The longest-serving justice on the state's highest court cracked jokes rapid-fire from her wheelchair and chuckled heartily as she and U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb reminisced on Friday about how they met and their early days in practice.

According to Abrahamson's recollection, she and Crabb were the only two women inlegal practice in Madison who were not related or married to lawyers at their firm.

"We did OK," said Abrahamson.

With Crabb playing moderator, Abrahamson gave this year's Kastenmeier Lecture on Friday afternoon as part of the law school's festivities celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Crabb, whom Abrahamson met at UW-Madison, noted that Abrahamson knew at just six years old that she wanted to be a lawyer.

"I never had another idea of what I should be," said Abrahamson. "I don't think I had any other talent to do anything else."

The two discussed variousobstaclesAbrahamson faced in her life, from the New York native's difficulties in getting a library card as a child in New Jersey because her parents didn't own real estate to her graduating from Indiana University's law school at a time when few firms would hire a woman.

Abrahamson, who graduated at the top of her law school class in 1956, recalled how the dean of the law school said hewould usuallyplace top students at the largest firm in Indianapolis but that he could not place her there.


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