UW Women in Law

Our interactive timeline features UW Law women who have made history for their outstanding contributions to Wisconsin’s legal community and beyond.



Wisconsin Marital Property Act Signed Into Law

Professor June Weisberger lectures

The Wisconsin Marital Property Act passed state legislature, giving Wisconsin status as the first common-law property state making “a serious attempt to introduce the concept of full sharing of the economic fruits of marriage.” Professor June Weisberger played a major role in authoring and advocating for the bill.


Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal Launched

Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender and Society logo

The Wisconsin Women’s Law Journal, now the Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender and Society, published its first issue.


Susan Shannon Engeleiter headed Small Business Association

Susan Shannon Engeleiter

Susan Shannon Engeleiter ’81 became the first woman appointed administrator of the Small Business Association (by President George H.W. Bush). Before attending law school, she held the distinction—at 22 years of age—of being the youngest state legislator in the nation. She was elected to the state assembly in 1974.

Linda Greene Joined Faculty

Professor Linda Greene

Professor Linda Greene became the first female African American member of the Law School faculty.


JoAnn Jones Led the Ho-Chunk Nation

Jo Ann Jones

JoAnn Jones ’87 became the first president of the Ho-Chunk Nation and, to date, the only woman to serve in that capacity.


Judith Lichtman and the Family & Medical Leave Act

Judith Lichtman with then-First Lady Hilary Clinton

As director of the National Partnership for Women and Families, Judith Lichtman ’65 played a crucial role in the drafting and passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. She reported: “President Clinton made it the first bill he signed into law, when he was barely three weeks in office. … [He] often tells people that the act was among the very best things he accomplished in office.”

Pamela Barker Led the State Bar

Pamela Barker

Pamela Barker ’79 became the first female president of the State Bar of Wisconsin. Four women followed Barker, three of whom were UW Law School graduates: Susan Steingass ’76, Michelle Behnke ’88 and Diane Diel ’76.


Alta Charo & Stem Cell Ethics

Professor Alta Charo became part of the global stem-cell community when UW-Madison researcher James Thomson sought her advice on the ethical implications of human embryonic stem cells derivation. Charo later served on the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and in 2008, to President Barack Obama’s Health & Human Services transition team, among other appointments.



Sue Bauman Elected Mayor of Madison

Sue Bauman

After serving as city alder for 12 years, Sue Bauman ’81 is elected the first female mayor of the city of Madison.


Jane Larson’s Feminist Scholarship

Hard Bargains

Professor Jane Larson co-authors (with Linda Hirshman) the book “Hard Bargains: The Politics of Sex.”


Center for Patient Partnerships Opened

Professor Meg Gaines

Professor Meg Gaines became the first director of the Center for Patient Partnerships, a unique affiliation between UW Law School and the Schools of Medicine & Public Health, Nursing, and Pharmacy. Learn more about CPP.

Pilar Ossorio Joined Faculty

Professor Pilar Ossorio

Professor Pilar Ossorio became the Law School’s first Hispanic female faculty member.


Peg Lautenschlager Elected Attorney General

Peg Lautenschlager

Peg Lautenschlager ’80 became the first woman elected attorney general of Wisconsin.


Equal Pay Enforcement Act Passed

not-equal sign

The Wisconsin legislature passed the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, allowing victims of wage discrimination to seek damages in state courts. However, the law was repealed in 2012.


Margaret Raymond Named Dean

Dean Margaret Raymond

Margaret Raymond becomes the first female dean of the Law School. Read more about Margaret Raymond and five other Law School trailblazers in the Spring 2013 issue of the Gargoyle.


Law School’s Outstanding Women of Color

Tonya Brito

Professor Tonya Brito wins UW System’s Outstanding Woman of Color in Education Award. Professor Linda Green and UW System Regent Danae Davis ’80 previously received the award.


Tammy Baldwin Became U.S. Senator

Tammy Baldwin

Tammy Baldwin ’89 took the oath of office to become the first woman to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate. Prior to that, she served seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Wisconsin’s 2nd district. Read more about Tammy Baldwin and five other Law School trailblazers in the Spring 2013 issue of the Gargoyle.


Geraldine Hines Seated on the Superior Court in Massachusetts

Geraldine Hines

Geraldine Hines ’71 became the first black woman to sit on the Massachusetts high court, after she was nominated for the post by Gov. Deval Patrick’s and unanimously confirmed by the Governor’s Council. Learn more about her career in law.


Kashoua Yang Elected Judge

Kashoua “Kristy” Yang

With her election to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court bench in April 2017, Kashoua “Kristy” Yang ’09 became the first Hmong judge in Wisconsin history, the first Hmong woman judge in the United States and only the second Hmong judge in American history.