Sara Rosalie Erwin was born on August 27, 1924, in Gordon, Kansas and was raised on a farm during the Great Depression. She attended the University of Kansas where she majored in sociology, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1946. That same year, she married Ross Wahl with whom she moved to Minnesota. Wahl was an active community volunteer in the Lake Elmo area, helping to create a public library system for Washington County. In 1962, at the age of thirty-eight, Wahl enrolled at William Mitchell College of Law, where she completed her law degree while raising her five children, including one born while she was in law school. She graduated in 1967, and worked as a public defender before accepting a professorship at William Mitchell, where she led efforts to create a clinical education program. In 1977, Governor Rudy Perpich appointed Wahl Associate Justice, making her the first women to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Wahl won reelections in 1978, 1984, and 1990, serving a total of seventeen years and authoring 549 opinions. Justice Wahl retired from the Court in 1994, but remained active as a public speaker and an advocate for social justice. Justice Wahl died on July 22, 2013, just a few weeks short of her eighty-ninth birthday.
You may read more about the ground-breaking life and work of Justice Wahl in the links below.
Materials Available in the State Law Library
- The Social Justice, Legal and Judicial Career of Rosalie Erwin Wahl
- Interview with Rosalie E. Wahl : Minnesota Supreme Court Historical Society oral history project, Minnesota State law Library. March 25 and 27, 1990. (Printed transcript of interview)
- Interview with former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Wahl on her legal and judicial career. August 17, 1994 (Printed transcript of interview)
- Interview with former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Wahl on her legal and judicial career. August 17, 1994 (DVD)
- Girl from Birch Creek. Washington County Historical Society. (DVD)
- Her honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement. (Book)
- "Tribute to the Honorable Rosalie E. Wahl," William Mitchell Law Review: Vol. 40: Iss. 2. (Special issue of William Mitchell Law Review)
- Transcript of proceedings of the presentation of papers relating to the social justice, legal and judicial career of Rosalie Erwin Wahl by the Minnesota State Law Library : Minnesota Supreme Court Chambers, Minnesota State Capitol, June 9, 2000. (Printed transcript)
- Three paths to leadership : a study of women on the Minnesota Supreme Court. (Book)
- Gender and justice : why women in the judiciary really matter. (Book)