Editor's Note: This year is the 100-year anniversary of Zonta International, a nonprofit organization that fights for women's equality while providing a plethora of services to communities in dozens of countries. To commemorate this milestone, the Jefferson City Chapter of Zonta and the News Tribune partnered to highlight seven local women each day this week who have been inspired by women at all levels, from well-known international figures to Capital City mentors. These local women have gone on to inspire community members and make a difference in Jefferson City or beyond.
Missouri Supreme Court Judge Mary Rhodes Russell paved the way for young girls seeking prominent offices and gave generously to the Capital City community.
Looking back on her career, local attorney Erin Wiseman credits many of her accomplishments to Russell and hopes to follow in the same footsteps as her inspirational mentor.
Wiseman is a partner at Brydon, Swearengen & England law firm, at 312 E. Capitol Ave. in Jefferson City, and works as a general civil practitioner.
Russell has been a Missouri Supreme Court judge for more than 15 years, having first been appointed in June 2004 by Gov. Bob Holden. She served as the court's chief justice from July 2013 to June 2015.
From a young age, Wiseman admired Russell. Russell is a family friend, Wiseman said, adding she remembers her father encouraging her to speak with Russell when Wiseman was a child.
"You think of where you came, and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for people breaking glass ceilings like Mary," said Wiseman, who has been a Zonta member since 2009 or 2010. "She wasn't the first (woman) on the supreme court and hopefully will not be the last, but she leads the way for women to be appointed to high offices and that's what's important. Having those little girls running around and thinking, 'Gosh, I can do that,' because we need to make sure women believe they can do anything they want to do."
The two women have crossed paths many times in their careers.
"You look at somebody like that who has the ability to take everything we do and really reason through people's problems and things," Wiseman said. "She's been on the tough end of this. She has litigated — she was a young litigator in Marion County and was a partner in that law firm, so she was an entrepreneur. She did what I'm doing now."
As elected Ward 3 Jefferson City councilwoman, Wiseman said the government should be about giving back to the community, something Russell has mastered.
Wiseman added she admires Russell's generosity and hopes to mentor young women.
"It's about watching her and supporting her and thinking, 'I hope I can be that generous. I hope I am that generous and if there's somebody I can take under my wing and elevate them, I can do that too,'" she said. "That's the ultimate goal here is to elevate people to the level that they can be successful."
The Jefferson City Chapter of Zonta will host its annual 5K Superhero Stride at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 26 at Memorial Park, 111 Memorial Drive. Check-in will begin at 7:30 a.m.
Pre-registration costs $25, while registration the day of the event is $30. Members of the Jefferson City Roadrunners can register for $20, and a team of five participants can register for $100.
Participants can register online by visiting zontajcmo.org or by downloading a form to mail to the local Zonta chapter at 1030 Westwood Drive.
Zonta members encouraged participants to register by Oct. 7 to receive a shirt for the 5K Superhero Stride.
The proceeds will go to the Zonta International Foundation so the foundation can continue its global equality efforts, such as reducing the risk of HIV/AIDS through health education and increasing educational opportunities and vocational skills training for women.