Persistence Exhibition: Stacey Combs

Persistence: Continuing the Struggle for Suffrage and Equality, 1830-2020

Artist: Stacey Combs (stace of spades)

Chosen Suffrage Leader: Rosalie Wahl


Artist Statement

“I’m tired of sitting outside doors waiting for men to make the decisions.”- Rosalie Wahl

stace of spades (Stacey) leapt at the opportunity to participate in Persistence. While she does use varied styles and subjects, Stacey is a portrait artist first and foremost. Often working with themes of social justice and inclusive feminism in her artwork, she draws attention to unfair and outdated social norms. Painting Rosalie Wahl for Persistence was a no-brainer for Stacey, as Ms. Wahl worked hard to address these same issues. Gender fairness, racial bias, and justice for all were cornerstones of her career, and are represented by the colorful background. The artist chose bold colors, intermingling to represent the fight for racial and gender equality.

Rosalie Wahl may be known best known for being the first woman in state history named to the Minnesota Supreme Court. She was a trailblazer in the legal field, and authored 549 opinions for the court during her 17 years of service. She is shown holding a book containing these letters in this painting. She is known nationally for her work on the American Bar Association, headed up task forces that made major changes in the way Minnesota’s court system dealt with women and minorities, and served as liason to the court’s Study Commission on the Mentally Disabled.

Rosalie Wahl truly was a remarkable woman. Strong and compassionate, she cleared a path for many to follow.

Stacey Combs (stace of spades) Biography

Stacey Combs (AKA stace of spades) is a fine artist and illustrator based out of south Minneapolis. She has been an artist in one form or another for nearly her entire life. She is self-taught, but has had a little help here and there.

Much of the work that she does is portraiture, with her primary mediums being watercolor, gouache, and ink. She paints landscapes and beer bottles as a fun way to document her travels. She also creates custom sentimental artwork for people, with some illustration work sprinkled in. On the more serious side, she often works with themes of environmentalism, social justice, and feminism. She uses this work to draw attention to unfairness and outdated social norms.

You can find Stacey all around the Twin Cities. She frequently participates in art fairs and hangs her work in various spaces from galleries to donut shops, and even billboards.

Justice Rosalie Wahl

Rosalie Wahl Biography

Rosalie Wahl was the first woman on the state supreme court. Born Sara Rosalie Erwin in Gordon, Kansas, Wahl entered the University of Kansas in 1942 following a series of significant personal losses, including her mother, a brother, and her fiance. She intended to major in journalism, but instead ended up majoring in sociology. While at Kansas, she helped found an interracial housing co-op. After graduating in 1946, she married and ended up in Minnesota in 1949. When her family moved to Lake Elmo, she led the effort to create and building of the Washington County Library system.

In 1962, she enrolled in William Mitchell College of Law, at the age of 38, in part because she said that she  “was tired of sitting outside doors and waiting for men to make the decisions.” Upon graduating (one of only two women in her class) and passing the bar, she went to work as an assistant public defender. In 1972, she taught criminal law at William Mitchell as an adjunct professor (and at the University of Minnesota School of Law) and later directed a controversial clinical legal education program that saw students appearing in court to provide counsel to indigent defendants.

Wahl was appointed to the Minnesota State Supreme Court by Governor Rudy Perpich in 1977. She believed that it was a direct result of women’s political activism in the 1970s. There is no doubt that Perpich felt pressure to appoint a woman, as the three finalists for the job were all female. Perpich later said one of the reasons that he appointed Wahl was that he was convinced that she would be able to win the political campaign to keep her seat. On the Supreme Court, Wahl served as liaison to the Court’s Study Commission on the Mentally Disabled and chaired its task forces on gender fairness and racial bias. Each of these assignments brought significant change to the judicial system in Minnesota. She was known for leading efforts to address both gender fairness and racial bias in the judicial system.

Wahl retired from the Court in 1994, when she turned 70. When Wahl died in 2013, she was hailed by all as both a trailblazer and a transformative Justice.

In 2019 four of the seven justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court were women, including the chief justice.

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