From A One-Room Schoolhouse to the California Supreme Court
By Jessica Barclay-Strobel
An Interview with Trailblazing Justice Kathryn Werdegar
CLR: Your opinions sometimes delve into California’s history to explain how that history has shaped our law. You and your family have been a part of that history: One of your grandmothers was a suffragist in the East Bay, another was a businesswoman in San Francisco who had lived in a tent in Golden Gate park after the 1906 earthquake, and, when you assumed the bench in 1991, you were the only sitting female justice on the First District Court of Appeal. How has California history affected the opportunities you had or did not have growing up and in your career?
KW: California is notable for being progressive and for its history of giving opportunity to individuals. Part of its history is its strong educational system. I am a product of the University of California, both as an undergraduate and for two of my three law school years. The grandmother you mentioned, who was a suffragist, went to Mills College in the 1880s and 90s. My two aunts also went to college in the early part of the 20th century when women did not go as much. So that’s my background and I must have absorbed it without consciously being aware of it.