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Legal History

Celebrating Wisconsin's rich legal history

Since the 1803 United States Supreme Court decision in Marbury v. Madison the power of judicial review has firmly established America’s courts as the third independent branch of government. Wisconsin’s constitution, adopted 45 years later, provides the basic powers and framework of the court system in Wisconsin by Article VII of the Wisconsin Constitution.​



Between 1879 and 1943, 150 women pioneered the inclusion of their sex into the legal world. The first woman lawyer was admitted to the Wisconsin Bar in 1879 and the 150th was admitted in 1943, a 60-year span in Wisconsin history. Their stories share common themes of struggle and success, conflict and contribution, not to mention discrimination and justice.

We invite you to explore this publication and examine the lives of these remarkable women. Their stories should make all of us, as lawyers and citizens, proud of our tradition and proud of our place in Wisconsin history. Even more, they all remind us of where we have been and where we need to go.