November 2011

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liveIn the Moment with Shirley Abrahamson The lighter side of life with the state's chief justice For being across the street from the hal- lowed halls of the State Capitol, you can't get much further away in mood than the playful and imaginative world inside the Madison Children's Museum. Even so, it's a place Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has been known to make an appearance. While the recent elections and court Abrahamson was the only woman to sit on the state's highest court for nearly two decades—from 1976 to 1993. Today, four out of seven seats on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are held by women. skirmishes have had her in the headlines for her role in leading the state's high- est court, when her 7-year-old grandson visits, she sets her judicial robe aside and makes time for the role of grandma. Al- ways on the pair's quality-time itinerary is a stop at the museum—and not just for the joy it brings him. For Abrahamson, it's a place to gain perspective. "Seven-year-olds see things differ- ently and [a trip here] is always an eye opener," says the 77-year-old while perched atop a pint-sized stool in the museum's faux pizza parlor. You might say Abrahamson's journey to the Supreme Court be- gan when she was just about his age. As a 6-year-old growing up in New York, Abrahamson decided that one day she would become a lawyer. Decades later she held true to her words, graduating from the Indiana University Law School and practicing law in Madison for 14 years before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 1976—an appointment that made her the fi rst woman to serve on the state's highest bench. She went on to become the fi rst female chief justice in 1996. Outside the public eye, the no-nonsense judge lets life lead her in more light- hearted directions. With a new court term underway, Abrahamson is looking forward to the new beginning—while also looking forward to her next date downtown with her grandson. Whether they're munching on local fare at the Farmers' Market ("We eat our way through that," she says with a laugh) or enjoying playtime together at the Chil- dren's Museum, she's happy to step back and soak in the fresh perspective spending time with family can bring. November 2011 11 Photo by Shanna Wolf

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