Updated April 10, 2021
We found Minnesota women judges “first” on Wikipedia’s list of first women lawyers and judges in Minnesota. We are only providing information on judges in this Election-related segment. We plan to share the wonderful stories of MN women trailblazing lawyers in a future update.
You can see the full Wikipedia list.
Minnesota Trailblazers – Women in Law
Eleanor Nolan was briefly a special municipal judge in Brainerd in 1940, but Betty Whitlock Washburn is generally considered the state’s first female judge. Washburn was named a municipal judge in Hennepin county in 1950 by Gov. Luther Youngdahl. Source: MN Women in History.
In 1977, Rosalie E. Wahl became the first woman in state history named to the Minnesota Supreme Court. She served until 1994. Source: Wikipedia – Rosalie E. Wahl.
In 1977, Margaret Treuer became the first Native American female lawyer in Minnesota. She would go on to become the first Native American female judge in the country. Source: Trailblazing Native American Lawyer & Advocate.
Retired Hennepin County Judge Pamela Alexander, is a fourth-generation Minnesotan and the first black female judge in Minnesota. She took office in 1983. Source: Changemakers.
Diane Murphy became the first woman to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. She served from 1994 to 2016 when she went into semi-retirement. After her death in 2018, the United States federal courthouse in Minneapolis was renamed in her honor. Source: Wikipedia – Diana E. Murphy.
Natalie Hudson was the first African American female to serve as a Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals when she was appointed in 2002. She joined Wilhemina Wright on the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2015 as its second African American woman. Source: Wikipedia – Natalie Hudson.
Regina Chu became the first Asian American female judge in Minnesota in 2002 when she was appointed by Governor Ventura. She was re-elected repeatedly but retired from the 4th Judicial District–covering Hennepin County–in May 2022 following the Kim Potter case over which she presided. Source: Regina Chu – Ballotpedia.
Susan N. Burke became the first Japanese American female judge in Minnesota when she was elected in 2004. She serves in the 4th Judicial District which covers Hennepin County. Source: MN Courts – Biographies.
Wilhelmina Wright was the first African-American on the MN Supreme Court. She served from 2012 to 2016. She then became a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. Source: Wikipedia – Wilhelmina Wright.
Anne McKeig was sworn in as the first Native American justice on the MN Supreme Court as well as the first female Native American to serve on any state supreme court in 2016. Source: Wikipedia – Anne McKeig.
Margaret Chutich was the first openly LGBT female appointed in 2016 as a Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Source: Wikipedia – Margaret Chutich.
Sophia Vuelo was sworn on January 4, 2018, becoming the first Hmong-American judge in Minnesota. Source: Wikipedia – Sophia Y. Vuelo.