Belle Case La Follette, 1859–1931, was the first woman graduate of the U.W. Law School in 1885. We honor her, not just because she was the first, but for what it took to achieve that distinction: tenacity, grit, determination, and smarts.
The name La Follette is deeply woven into Wisconsin’s political history. Many people are familiar with Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette Sr., a Wisconsin congressman, governor, senator, and presidential candidate. His son Robert Jr. served in the U.S. Senate, and son Philip served three terms as Wisconsin’s governor. But it is Belle Case La Follette, who was married to Bob and mother to Robert Jr. and Philip and their sisters, who was the true trailblazer.
A Wisconsin lawyer, as well as journalist, teacher, and women’s rights activist, Belle Case La Follette was the first woman graduate of the U.W. Law School in 1885, attending the school as a married woman with a young child. At the time of her death in 1931, the
New York Times called her “probably the least known yet most influential of all the American women who had to do with public affairs in this country.”
Today, half of students at the U.W. Law School are women, thanks to the trail blazed by Belle Case La Follette, as well as by Lavinia Goodell and others from nearly a century and a half ago.
We honor Belle Case La Follette, not just because she was the first, but for what it took to achieve that distinction: tenacity, grit, determination, and smarts.
It is in this spirit that the
Wisconsin Law Foundation now annually grants the
Belle Case La Follette Awards to worthy law school graduates. These awards recognize recent law school graduates who are State Bar of Wisconsin members, practicing law in Wisconsin, and representing underserved populations, such as people with modest means and those who live in rural areas and have limited access to legal representation. One award is given each year to a graduate of the U.W. and Marquette law schools and to a graduate of an out-of-state law school.
Since 2016, the Law Foundation has awarded a total of $39,000 to 18 recipients. Individual grants are unrestricted, allowing the recipients to use the funds at their own discretion – whether for school loans, office expenses, or to meet other financial needs.
This year’s recipients, each receiving a grant of $2,400, are the following:
Jacob A. Haller, Marquette 2018, Legal Action of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Haller works with the Disabled Offenders Economic Security (DOES) Project to advocate for incarcerated persons who are nearing the end of their sentence and also living with a mental-health-related disability.
Taylor M. Hart, U.W. 2017, Martinez & Ruby LLC, Baraboo. The overwhelming majority of Hart’s clients are appointed by the State Public Defenders Office, spread across 10 rural Wisconsin counties.
Megan E. Lee, Michigan State 2019, Wisconsin Judicare, Wausau. Lee represents victims of crime in the northern 33 counties in Wisconsin, as well as victims of domestic abuse in family law cases.
These awards are made possible through your generous contributions to the Wisconsin Law Foundation. Help us continue to highlight and support lawyers who are working to ensure that everyone has access to justice and fair representation.
Give to your Law Foundation today!
» Cite this article:
95 Wis. Law. 11 (January 2022).