Jackie Macaulay lived in Madison for 42 years, and during that time she was one of the people who could be counted on to support progressive causes. She was always busy. Beginning in 1957, she was a graduate student, a psychologist, a law student and a lawyer–as well as being a wife, a mother of four and a good friend to many.
Nonetheless, she made time to do her part for civil liberties, civil rights, environmental protection, the rights of the poor, and a wide variety of women’s issues. She worked to keep protests against the war in Vietnam nonviolent. She did all the things that activists do: she participated in political campaigns; she held fund raising parties at her house, beginning with Bob Kastenmeier’s first campaign for Congress and continuing until the last year of her life; she signed petitions and contributed money; she wrote letters and made telephone calls; and she picketed and sat in. She had a large station wagon, and she said with a sly smile that she was “the nice liberal lady from the west side who hauled the radical picket signs.”
In 1980, she went to law school and reinvented herself. She was 50 when she graduated, and she was eager to put her legal skills into service for her values. She co-founded and practiced in a small firm and represented, for the most part, ordinary people. Many of her clients came seeking divorces or raised other problems of family law. While she was always willing to seek cooperative solutions, often she had to battle for the weaker spouse and the children. She demanded that lawyers and their clients do the right thing, and she knew how to force those who resisted doing the right thing to face the disdain of their adult children and friends. Often her clients were individuals with little power forced to battle a large bureaucracy. She represented employees who had lost their jobs, often when the facts suggested that they had been discriminated against on the grounds of race or gender. She took civil liberties claims for the ACLU. She poured time and effort into her cases. She was an excellent lawyer, skilled in cross examination and oral argument. One of her daughters suggested that Jackie had learned these skills as a mother of four teenagers.
The 1980s and 1990s were not an easy time to represent ordinary people, but she won many of her battles. Several prominent lawyers who handle employment issues paid tribute to her after her death. Jackie was willing to fight long and hard to keep some measure of protection for employees in an era when courts were undercutting the gains of earlier decades. She would note that if you are going to represent employees, you are going to lose many cases too. But she would insist that this isn’t a reason not to do what you can.
Senator Tammy Baldwin began her legal career as an associate in Jackie’s office. In her tribute to Jackie, Tammy wrote: “She taught me how to practice law and still have a heart … Jackie was committed to the principles of justice … not just for some, but for all. Not just for those who could pay, but for those who had to worry about food or shelter or medicine before they could think about legal fees. Not just for the easy victories, but for the arduous, time-consuming, frustrating cases, as well.”
When she was a law student, Jackie and SBA President Mark Borns founded the Public Interest Law Foundation. Many students come to the UW Law School hoping to use their legal skills to make the world a better place. Too much of traditional American legal education pushes students to abandon such goals. Jackie and Mark saw the need for an institution within the school that helped preserve and develop such ideals.