It was remarkable enough that Kay McFarland served on the Kansas Supreme Court for nearly 32 years, including 14 as chief justice, and was so respected for her fairness and common sense. But her stature in state history is inextricable from her gender, and how she inspired other women in Kansas to enter the legal profession. The only female to be attending classes full time when she was at Washburn Law School, the Coffeyville native became the state’s first female district court judge in 1972 (in Shawnee County) and then both the Supreme Court’s first female justice and chief justice. Her death Tuesday, at age 80, also is an uncomfortable reminder that Kansas’ judiciary remains far less diverse, in both gender and ethnicity, than its population. – Rhonda Holman
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