Inspired Leadership: Amy Klobuchar on the leadership and courage of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Wahl

Senator Amy Klobuchar is the first woman in Minnesota’s history elected to the U.S. Senate (Courtesy Photo

Important decisions are being made in workplaces, neighborhoods, courtrooms, schoolhouses, boardrooms and governments. And women belong in all these places – because as the saying goes – if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. 

Women make some of the best leaders, especially when the going gets tough. We understand challenges not just as abstract problems, but rather in the context of people’s daily lives. 

My years in public service have taught me that if we want to see change, we have to be ready to make it happen ourselves. One woman who did just that, and who is a source of inspiration for me, is Rosalie Wahl, the first woman who served on Minnesota’s state Supreme Court. 

Rosalie Wahl was a true trailblazer who did so much to advance both women’s rights and civil rights in our state. She paved her own way and the way for all women. She enrolled in law school at age 38 as a mother of four because she was, in her own words, “tired of sitting outside doors waiting for the men inside to make the decisions.” 

Spurred by a resolute belief in justice for all, and as a professor at her alma mater, William Mitchell College of Law, Justice Wahl helped found the school’s clinic program for students to gain real world experience representing the underprivileged. And, as a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, she pioneered reforms that made courtrooms a fairer and more accessible place for the poor, women and people of color. 

Justice Wahl provided all of us a roadmap on how to get it done. She set a goal, doggedly pursued it, and simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. She had the vision and faith to know that women can accomplish whatever we set our minds to. 

As the first woman to serve as Hennepin County Attorney and the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota, I try to live by that same principle. It’s what first got me into public service. I saw a law that was hurting women and children and I wanted to do something about it. I called my legislators and testified at the State Capitol. And I fought and advocated for one of the first laws guaranteeing new moms and their babies a 48-hour hospital stay. 

Earlier this year, millions of women across the country and around the world took to the streets and marched. It was an incredible show of strength in numbers and spirit.

Activism and leadership take courage. And courage does not mean standing at the opposite corners of the boxing ring. It means standing next to someone you don’t always agree with and working with them to tackle problems and find solutions. And women – especially Minnesota women – have shown that courage time and again. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar is the first woman in Minnesota’s history elected to the U.S. Senate. 

What’s On Your Bookshelf? 
Send us 450 words about your booklife, plus your list of five related books by women authors.

Amy Klobuchar recommends these books by women activists:
Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement by Lori Sturdevant 
Personal History by Katherine Graham 
Plenty Ladylike by Claire McCaskill 
How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership by Marilyn Carlson Nelson 
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou