Margaret Musterman Houghton

Areas of Achievement: 

Honored By

Honored by: Atwood, Barbara
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: General Gift
Honored by: Houghton, Olin Barker
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Ornate Seatwall Bench

Judge Houghton was crippled by polio at ten, and denied education after high school for social and economic reasons. She married, had two children, and involved herself in volunteer work, including Girl Scouts, March of Dimes, and The Merry Players (a marionette theatre group/fundraiser for church guild). One of the founders, she built marrionettes and scenery, wrote scripts, and performed. She was also a Junior League member, serving as Treasurer and running the League Bargain Box in Winter Park, Florida.

Always longing for education, she began college in 1968 at a new junior college near to her home in Florida. When she and her husband, Barker, moved to Tucson, she attended the U of A, earning a BA with High Distinction in Anthropology in 1973, and a JD in 1976. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Her Honors Thesis launched her active work in gender issues as she developed, surveyed and compiled data for "Male and Female Lawyers in Pima County: Does Gender Make a Difference". During law school, she and Barker lived a very active life with three teenagers.

Judge Houghton practiced law in Tucson for eight years before being appointed Commissioner of the Superior Court (the first woman to hold that position). In 1989, Governor Rose Mofford appointed her Judge of the Arizona Superior Court in Pima County, Division 17. Judge Houghton served as the Presiding Domestic Relations Judge and later, the Presiding Probate Judge. She also served on the criminal and civil benches. Her real love was working with families whose problems brought them into the courtroom. She received many awards over the years for her work in this area, and spoke and wrote about family law issues nationally and internationally.

In 1989, Judge Houghton was sent to India on a month-long speaking tour by the United States Information Agency (USIA) as an Ampart participant. This program, for professionals and experts in a field, is administered by the Fulbright Scholarship board. She spoke to and with groups of students, lawyers, judges, media, and social activists. She gave the keynote address at the All India Women's Conference in New Delhi in February, 1989.

Judge Houghton earned the Women on the Move award in 1984 for Government, served on the boards of Planned Parenthood, Casa de los Ninos, Child and Family Resources, and PHASE. She was president of and served on the Law College Board of Visitors. She was the first woman to be elected president of the Law College Association, and continues to serve on that board. She was a member of the U of A Centennial Committee Advisory Board, continuing her work in gender issues throughout our society. She serves on the Honors College Board.

Starting law school in 1973, she was one of the founders of the Law Women's Association, which replaced the existing women's organization called "Barrister's Biddies." She was a founding member of the Arizona Women Lawyer's Association, and was honored by AWLA upon her retirement in 2000 by a dinner and a scholarship established in her name at the College of Law. She was an active member of the National Association of Women Judges, served on many bar and judicial boards and committees, proposed the first legislation against domestic violence in Arizona, and was active in the continuing education of lawyers and judges.

Judge Houghton survived breast cancer in 1990, and was forced to retire from the bench early due to increasing disability due to late effects of polio. She continues to be involved in local, state and national efforts to increase diversity at all levels, and to provide women and children with the resources needed for full participation in society, and for their own health and wellbeing.