The first woman appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, brought a deep faith in the power of equality to her work.
In Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, “The Nightingale,” a songbird’s lovely melody cures a dying emperor who once had rejected the bird in favor of a trilling toy.
Rosalie Wahl made sure the tale was read aloud whenever the Nightingales, a women’s singing group she founded, gathered. They sang a cappella, without accompaniment, kindred Quaker women who loved to sing old hymns and spirituals.
“She Who Would Valiant Be” was a particular favorite, said her good friends and fellow Quakers Raquel and Frank Wood of St. Paul. Originally “He Who Would Valiant Be,” the Nightingales sang “she.” Wahl broadened it further when she sang, after a hard-fought judicial election in 1978, “No foes shall stay our might, though we with giants fight.”
“She accepted that there are limits to our knowledge of the Divine,” Wood said. “But she knew from childhood that life brings challenges that can destroy us if we have not found the deep springs made available to those who seek them.”
Wahl, with other Friends, started the St. Croix Valley Meeting near where she lived for years, raising a family on land in Lake Elmo as part of a small Quaker community.
Her work within her judge’s robes spoke to her fervent belief in equal rights among genders and races. At home, her firm soprano voice proclaimed no different.