Biographical / Historical
Rebecca Westerfield, the oldest of five children, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, on September 26, 1950, where her father served as a firefighter and her mother was a homemaker. The family eventually moved to Kentucky and Westerfield graduated from Owensboro Catholic High School in 1968.
That fall she entered the University of Kentucky (UK) and by the end of her freshman year she made the dean's list. Westerfield received a BA degree with distinction in 1972 with a concentration in history and political science. During her college years, she received the Upperclassman Achievement Scholarship (1969-1970) as well as the McVey Scholarship (1970-1971 1971-1972). She also won election as "Outstanding Woman Student" by the Associated Women Students (1972).
Westerfield took part in several extracurricular activities at the university. She served as vice-president of the Student Government Association, and worked as staff writer (1968-1969) and later as editorial writer (1970-1971) for the Kentucky Kernel, the student newspaper at the university. Westerfield also worked in various political campaigns (including participation as a delegate at the Kentucky state convention in 1972 for presidential candidate George McGovern). She vigorously worked for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and sought aid for Eastern Kentucky. She also participated in opposition movements to the Vietnam War.
Upon her graduation, Westerfield entered the Peace Corps. She trained at Cuttington College in Monrovia, Liberia. Westerfield was subsequently posted to Barziwen Clinic in Liberia as a health educator. She also worked with the Community Health Department of Currans Hospital in Zorzor preparing visual aids and giving vaccinations. Her official enrollment in the Peace Corps began September 15, 1972, and ended on March 13, 1973. Westerfield returned to the United States, entered the UK College of Law, and graduated in 1975.
In her early law career, Westerfield worked as a hearing officer for the Kentucky Department of Insurance (1980-1985) in addition to being in private legal practice. She also represented the city of Louisville as a contract attorney. In 1987 Westerfield was appointed Circuit Court Judge in the Tenth Division of Jefferson County by Governor Martha Layne Collins. She filled the position vacated by a judge who retired due to ill health. She won the seat in the general election with sixty-six percent of the vote.
In addition to her private practice, Westerfield gave many hours and other support to causes she deemed worthy. Her many endeavors included posts as regional director of Lawyers Alliance for Nuclear Arms Control, president of the Louisville Bar Association (1986), president of the Kentucky Youth Advocates, 1982-1984, co-chair of the Gender Fairness Task Force, chairwoman of the Task Force on Sentencing to Educational Programs, and House of Delegates member of the American Bar Association. Westerfield also served on the board of directors of the Legal Aid Society, Metro United Way, Home of the Innocents, National Council of Jewish Women, and American Trial Lawyers Association, and was president of the Jefferson County Women Lawyers Association.
Westerfield received greater recognition in handling the legal action (1984-1986) of Sallie Bingham against other members of Bingham's family in the sale of their media companies. In 1989 she received the Kentucky Bar Center Award.
Westerfield married Scott Wendelsdorf in 1976, had two children, and divorced in 1984. In 1992, she left Kentucky for the San Francisco Bay area. Her papers reflect her life prior to her move.