Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life

About Sue Shear


Photo of Sue ShearServing a record-breaking 26-years in the Missouri House of Representatives, Sue Shear embodied the integrity and hard work that citizens admire in an elected official. Sue was a homemaker and campaign volunteer when she was recruited in 1972 by the St. Louis chapter of the Women’s Political Caucus to become a candidate for the Missouri House.

Although inexperienced with law making when she was first elected, Sue Shear’s commitment to fairness, integrity, and determination were the hallmarks of her many years in office. She advocated for the under-represented: children, women, seniors, prisoners and the economically disadvantaged. She was tireless in her advocacy and left a legacy that included safety and health standards for day care facilities, “circuit-breaker” protection for senior apartment renters, new women’s prison and the use of gender-neutral terminology in state statutes.

When she took office, Rep. Shear was one of only 10 women serving in the General Assembly. When she retired 26 years later, the number of women legislators had grown to 40 and Sue was a mentor and role model to many of them, as well as to many of her male colleagues.

After being diagnosed with a terminal illness early in 1998, Rep. Shear did not seek reelection in 1998. She died on Nov. 15th, 1998, only after going to the polls on Nov. 3 to assure that another qualified woman filled her legislative seat.

In conjunction with Shear’s retirement, the Missouri Legislature and the University of Missouri Board of Curators approved naming the Institute in her honor. This official naming made the Sue Shear Institute the first university public policy center in the country to be named after a woman office holder.

*Photo courtesy of the Missouri State Archives - Publication Collection