Shirley Abrahamson, first woman to serve on Wisconsin Supreme Court, dies at 87

MADISON, Wis. — Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has died.

Gov. Tony Evers released a statement Sunday afternoon on Abrahamson’s passing, saying he was “devastated” to learn of her death.

Abrahamson was the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the first woman to serve as Chief Justice.

“Yet, her legacy is defined not just by being a first, but her life’s work of ensuring she would not be the last, paving and lighting the way for the many women and others who would come after her,” Evers said.

Abrahamson, who was 87, served on the court from 1976 to 2019 and wrote more than 1,300 opinions. Evers called her a “meticulous jurist and a profound writer.”

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin also released a statement on Saturday afternoon saying Abrahamson was a “true public servant ” who “broke barriers.”

“…her serving on the Supreme Court meant serving the people of Wisconsin as an independent, fair and impartial justice because after all, the court and our court system belongs to the people, not powerful special interests,” said Baldwin.

Baldwin also explained that Abrahamson “spent a lot of her time traveling the state, meeting with people,” because she understood that you can’t serve the people if you don’t walk in their shoes.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul released a statement Sunday night, saying he was saddened to learn of Abrahamson’s passing.

“You didn’t have to know Chief Justice Abrahamson to know that she was brilliant, worked famously long hours in service to the people of Wisconsin, and was dedicated to fairness and justice,” Kaul said. “You just had to read her opinions.”

She announced in 2018 that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.