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Last updated: Saturday, 14-Mar-2009 19:10:59 Central Daylight Time

Wisconsin Bar President Speaks At UW-RF

March 12, 1999


By Mary Sandelands
UW-RF News Bureau

Attorney Susan Steingass, the 43rd president of the State Bar of Wisconsin, spoke Wednesday at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls of the pioneering contributions of Wisconsin women who practice law.

Steingass' speech, titled "Pioneering Women in Wisconsin Law," was the first of three lectures and discussions scheduled for Women's History Month.

In her speech, Steingass highlighted women who became attorneys in Wisconsin by showing a video titled "Pioneers in the Law: The First 150 Women."

The video and a book were the result of a project that Steingass and over 100 volunteers completed for the state's Sesquicentennial celebration last year, which also marked the 150th anniversary of the women's movement.

The first female attorney registered in 1879 after a bill was passed to allow women to practice in the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The 150th woman registered in 1943. These women were abolitionists, advocates, wives, and mothers. Their battle to enter the courts was not an easy one and they slowly conquered many of the barriers that stood in the way.

They revolutionized such things as separate juvenile courts, separate prisons for women, labor laws, and the sanitation and health programs.

"Women in the profession are changing the face of the profession," says Steingass. She went on to say that none of this progress could have occurred without the men who supported and encouraged these women.

Today, women make up 25 percent of the almost 20,000 Wisconsin attorneys.

Steingass recognizes the distance women attorneys have traveled, but says there is still inequality and gender discrimination.

As the chairperson of a two-year study with the Wisconsin Equal Justice Task Force, Steingass saw both male and female bias in the courts.

Despite these bias she hasn't been held back in her field. She is a partner of the Madison firm of Habush, Habush, Davis, and Rottier. She practices in the areas of personal injury law, professional malpractice, and tort litigation.

As Bar president, Steingass represents the interests of 18,600 licensed attorneys in Wisconsin. She took the oath of office in last June and became the second female president in the 120 years of the bar.

Steingass has also spent time on the bench. She served as a judge in the civil, juvenile, and criminal divisions of the Dane County Circuit Court.

She was admitted to the bar in 1976 after receiving a bachelor's degree from Denison University, a master's degree from Northwestern University, and a doctorate in law from UW-Madison.

Having spent over 35 years in the area of law, Steingass' list of accomplishments is quite lengthy.

She has been a lecturer on civil procedure, environmental law, and trial advocacy at the University of Wisconsin Law School since 1981. She was an editor for Wisconsin Law Review from 1974-1976 and then went on to be a Law Clerk for the Wisconsin Supreme Court until 1977.

Steingass has received much recognition for her achievements including being elected as Wisconsin Trial Judge of the Year in 1992.

Those interested in purchasing the "Pioneers in the Law: The First 150 Women" video or booklet can call the state bar at 1-800-728-7788. Books are $7.50 each and the videos are $10.


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