BY WENDY PARKS
RACINE - Elisheva Schwartz was remembered Friday as a pioneer for women and a crusader for justice. At age 93, the original law firm partner of Schwartz, Tofte, Nielsen Ltd., has died.
Local attorney Tom Tofte, who is a partner in the law firm, said words cannot fully describe what Schwartz has done for the community.
"She was a wonderful lady, and one of the greatest ladies that I've ever known in my life" said Tofte.
He said it was because of her determination and dedication to serving the poor in the 1930s and beyond, that her legacy will live on forever. As one of the very few female lawyers during the Depression era, Schwartz never allowed sexism to stop her in achieving her goals.
Tofte characterized Schwartz as a hard-worker who dedicated her life to ensuring that all people would have a chance at obtaining fair and quality representation.
"She practiced law in 1932 after obtaining her degree from Marquette University and as you can imagine, it wasn't easy practicing law in the '30s, ' 40s, ' 50s and ' 60s and so on in the male-dominated field," he said.
And he said Schwartz's personal history is equally as intriguing as her employment record.
Her parents immigrated from Russia in the early 1900s and she was born in New Haven, Conn., living there until age 7. The family then moved to Milwaukee to reside near relatives.
After graduating from high school at age 16, Schwartz began her collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Because she was poor, Schwartz had three jobs to pay her room, board and tuition costs. It was tough she said earlier but nevertheless, she graduated with a bachelor of arts in English and German.
At Marquette University Law School, Schwartz met her husband. The couple practiced law together in Racine until his death in the mid 1960s. She was one of two women, at that time, to receive a law degree.
Her grandson, who also is an attorney, said Schwartz is a fine example of what it takes to fulfill a dream.
"She opened a law firm with my grandfather above a pawn shop and they performed legal services in the community in exchange for the use of the building," said Chicago attorney Richard Goldwasser. "They were so poor that they didn't have a law library.
"So what they would do it stall clients and then run over to the library, look up information. She was definitely a role model for us all."