By Shereen Siewert

The first woman to serve as a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice has died after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her family announced on Sunday.

Justice Shirley Abrahamson was a longtime chief justice on the state’s highest court, where she served for 43 years. In July 2019, she ended her fourth, 10-year term.

A monumental figure in Wisconsin’s judicial history, Abrahamson was appointed in 1976 by then-Gov. Patrick Lucey before her first election in 1979.

The New York native, who made Wisconsin her home, was respected nationwide as a justice who made significant contributions to American law, writing more than 1,300 opinions during her tenure.

Gov. Tony Evers on Sunday called Justice Abrahamson a “meticulous jurist and a profound writer who believed in an independent judiciary.”

Evers said Abrahamson’s legacy is defined by her life’s work of ensuring she would not be the last woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, paving and lighting the way for the many women and others who would come after her. She was widely considered a champion for a fair and more equitable state and country.

“She has had a larger-than-life impact on the legal profession in Wisconsin and our state’s and country’s jurisprudence,” Abrahamson said. “She was a pillar of our state and the court for generations. We have missed her greatly on the court, and we will miss her greatly in this life. We are thinking of Chief Justice Abrahamson’s family and friends, and we join the people of Wisconsin in mourning the loss of one of our state’s most extraordinary public servants and honoring her legacy.”

She was 87.