March is Women’s History Month

Rosalie Erin Wahl died in 2013 at age 88.  When Rosalie was 3, she and her younger brother went to live with their grandparents in Birch Creek, Kansas following the death of her mother.  Her brother and her grandfather were killed by a train 1932.  Rosalie and her grandmother lived alone in Birch Creek until she attended high school in Caney, Kansas.  Her Grandma Effie and her Aunt Sara, a nursing professor at the University of Kansas were two strong role models for her.  Rosalie was engaged after high school but her fiance’ was a casualty while training in World War II.

Rosalie then pursued her BA in journalism at the University of Kansas.  While there she was editor of the school paper and president of University’s YWCA branch.  She started the first interracial student housing on campus.  She married Roswell Wahl following his return from WW II and they moved to Minnesota where they had four children.  The county library system became more advanced while the children were being raised.

In 1962 she started at William Mitchell College of Law.  Halfway through she had her fifth child.  Following graduation in 1967 Rosalie worked for the State Public Defender’s Office were she argued appeals before the Minnesota Supreme Court, and developed William Mitchell’s criminal law clinic program, the first in the nation.  Governor Rudy Perpich appointed Rosalie to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1977 – the first woman to serve on that Court.

While on the Supreme Court, she led the Court’s Commission on Mental Health, the Gender Bias Task Force, and the Racial Bias Task Force.  She retired from the Supreme Court in 1977 but her legacy inspired many women especially those going into the legal profession.  Rosalie loved to sing and the Minnesota Women’s Consortium was fortunate enough to experience her talent at one of our Celebrations.  Rosalie Wahl is a true hero and inspiration for all women.

Rosalie was a wonderful supporter and fan of the Minnesota Women’s Consortium and repeatedly said “The Minnesota Women’s Consortium is the most important thing that has happened for Minnesota women since the ratification of the 19th amendment.”


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