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Memorial held for pioneering politician Dawn Clark Netsch in Chicago

Updated: April 14, 2013 12:04PM

A memorial was held Saturday in downtown Chicago for Dawn Clark Netsch, the cigarette-smoking, pool-playing politician who helped break down barriers facing women.

The memorial was held at Northwestern University’s School of Law, where Netsch taught.

She died March 5 at 86 of complications from the degenerative disorder ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Netsch was the first woman to hold statewide elective office in Illinois, elected state comptroller in 1990 after serving 18 years in the Illinois Senate. She also was the first woman to get the Democratic nomination for governor in Illinois, losing a longshot campaign in the 1994 general election to Republican sitting Gov. Jim Edgar.

She joined the Northwestern law faculty in 1965.

“More than any other person in our state’s history, Dawn Clark Netsch created the modern era of women in Illinois political leadership,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who met Netsch in the 1970s when he worked as a lawyer for the Illinois Senate, said after her death. “As always, those who open the doors of opportunity must be extraordinarily gifted, determined and patient. Dawn was all of these and more.”

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