Born in a small town in Wisconsin, Dianne Post says she always had a “justice bone” in her body. Even as a child, Post was fighting for the rights and well being for the less fortunate and disenfranchised. Her work as an attorney has brought her to 15 countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, as well as the United States.
When Post was six years old, a young boy moved into her town who didn’t have as much money as the rest of the kids. When you’re a new kid coming into a small town, making close friends isn’t very easy, and not having enough money to afford marbles to play with the other kids alienated him even more. Post was having none of that. She went around to all the other boys in her grade and asked them for one marble and presented the new student with marbles to play with.
“My Ma said she took one look at me and she said ‘that’s the one. That’s the trouble right there.’ I’ve been this way since, honest to God, since I was born,” Post said.
Growing up, the ideal lifestyle for a woman was laid out for her – go to high school, marry a nice boy, have babies, and take care of the house. Post decided instead to get an education and go to college. Her parents not only discouraged her from doing so, they actively worked against her. They even refused to drop her off to her first day of school.
When Post was 16, she was President of both the Methodist and Presbyterian youth group. At the same time. At the beginning of her senior year, Post took an aptitude test which told her she was good at working with her hands, so her advisor told her she would be good at working in a factory doing piecework because that way, she would be able to make money until she got married and had children.
Post looks at him and says, “I’m the valedictorian of the school, I’m the president of the class, I’m a national merit scholar. And you’re telling me my future is to go to a factory and do piecework?” His response? “Well your family doesn’t have any money, and you’re a girl so you’re just going to get married and have babies anyway.
She responded, “I’m fast with my hands. I’m fast with my mouth too. I think I’ll be a lawyer,” and got up and walked out.
That was the first time Post thought about being a lawyer. After graduating from college, she went on to get a masters degree and finally enter law school with the intent of becoming a criminal defense attorney.
Her first year in law school, a woman came to speak to her about her law firm and how they fought for women’s rights. After she was finished speaking, Post went up to her and said, “I am going to work for you.” And she did.
Post then found out about a company being paid ten thousand dollars in taxpayer money to attack the ERA – a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that had not been passed at the time and still is not passed that does not allow the government to make any laws discriminating against someone’s sex. She found a law firm to help her attack this company and won the case. However, they suggested that she not write her name on the case officially because she had not yet passed the bar and the bar association might take offense to her actions.
Post refused to allow that to happen and wrote her name into the case. Later, she learned that she had flunked the bar.
“No, I didn’t. I haven’t failed a test in my life except for an eye exam.” She appealed the test and her exam and the answer key was sent to five lawyers not associated with the bar exam. They all agreed that she had passed with flying colors. That was her entry to the Arizona bar.
After she got into the bar, she went on job interviews but realized that she would be doing all the work and they would be getting all the money, so Post decided to start up her own business. She would take cases fighting for battered women or abused children and even bartered for payment with work around her house.
Post had the opportunity to go to Russia to work for women’s rights with the ABA. She did 30 seminars on women’s rights in 24 months in 20 different cities with law enforcement, doctors, teachers, and anybody that would encounter a battered woman.They worked on a sex trafficking that they got introduced but never passed.
At the time, it wasn’t considered domestic abuse in Russia unless one spouse put the other in the hospital for at least three days. “Sickening” is how Post described it. She and her team of lawyers worked on the law and were able to get it changed so it was a crime without having to go to the hospital. 18 years later, under Putin’s rule, the law was reversed back to the spouse having to be in the hospital for three days. They call it “the slapping law.”
Although the reversing of the law was a disappointment, Post knows she did a lot for the women in Russia. She was able to open up women’s shelters and keep them open, she educated women on domestic violence, and she inspired women to fight against an unjust law.
Her proudest moment was when Post was giving a speech, a young woman came up to her after the speech and started speaking to her. The young woman said, “You don’t recognize me do you?” Post didn’t recognize her at all. The young women told her that it was okay, she was a young girl when they had met.
“But maybe you would recognize my mom.” When the young girl pointed out her mother, realization struck her. Post had tears in her eyes when she said she had represented the young girl and her mother in a case where the father was molesting the girl. Post made sure he got no visitation and he never touched her again.
But even so, a study by Joan Meyer highlights the disconnect in cases like these. According to her study funded by the federal government, 64% of the time, physical and sexual abusers win custody.
Post wants young girls to never stop. To never give up.
“If I’d stopped or given up ever, where would I be?” Post knew she was smart. She knew she was going places. She had the courage to defy all odds, get an education, and do something she would be proud of forever.
“The minute you tell me I can’t do it. It’s done. Because I’m gonna do it.”0