NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) — After years of school, exams and studying, Elisabeth Wilder finally got a sigh of relief, getting sworn in as an attorney.
“You have to graduate from an undergraduate university, graduate from law school, and then you submit a bar application which involves going through a character and fitness evaluation, taking the actual bar exam itself, and then the last step is the swearing-in where you’re sworn in by a judge of record,” Elisabeth said.
But, she didn’t have just any judge swear her in.
“Normally, there’s a big swearing-in in Topeka, and you’re sworn in by all the justices of the Kansas Supreme Court, but any judge can swear you in in Kansas, and so I want to have my mom swear me in,” Elisabeth said.
“Of course, I said well, absolutely, and it had never crossed my mind that she would ask me to do that, and so I was very thrilled when she asked me to do that,” 9th Judicial District Court Judge Marilyn Wilder said.
The path to get to that point wasn’t always clear. Elisabeth says she thought about different career paths and was always motivated by helping her community.
“For a while, that was doing social work, and through my work as a community organizer when I worked as a social worker, I discovered that going to law school was the best way that I could do that,” Elisabeth said.
“She cares about people,” Marilyn said. “She wants to make a difference with her work, and she is a hard worker, and so I have no doubt she will make a difference in her work.”
At a young age, Elisabeth says she didn’t necessarily understand what exactly her mom’s job was, but she knew it helped people. She realized she could also make a difference by being an attorney.
“Growing up, I remember going to the grocery store with my mom, or we’d be at church together, and people would come up and talk to my mom, and they would be talking to her about some case, and then they would look at me and say, your mom is a really good lawyer,” Elisabeth said.
Marilyn says she always wanted her kids to choose the path that was best for them, no matter what that may be.
“With all of my kids, I wanted them to find the thing in life that made them happy and gave them joy, and I will wholeheartedly support whatever that was,” Marilyn said.
“She’s always just let me be my own person and let me make my own decisions and kind of forge my own path, but she’s always been there in the background kind of guiding me and giving me advice,” Elisabeth said.
Marilyn was the first female judge in the 9th Judicial District, and Elisabeth feels thankful she had a female mentor in the law world.
“For a lot of women, they didn’t have mentors like I did growing up,” Elisabeth said. “Women who served as judges, and so it’s been really cool to see the progress that women have made over the course of the last 10, 20, 30 years that more and more women are on the bench, more and more women are lawyers. And so that’s been really exciting to see that, it’s not just, you know, my success, but just I feel like it’s a success for women too. That more and more women are entering the field.”
When Marilyn came to Harvey County in 1990, there were only a few female lawyers.
Marilyn and Elisabeth say sharing the moment of being sworn in was special beyond words.
“I don’t know how to put it into words,” Marilyn said. “It was wonderful that she asked me to do that. It was wonderful for the two of us to share that moment together and for me to be a part in launching her career.”
“It was just incredibly meaningful to have my mom swear me in in the Harvey County Courthouse because that was where I grew up.,” Elisabeth said. “And so for me, it really just felt like full circle of, you know, this is the person that helped me become who I am and get to this point in my life, and this is the place where it all started in my hometown.”