Notestein was born on April 14, 1949 in Madison, Wisconsin, and grew up in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. She is a graduate of Whitefish Bay High School. She earned a B.A. from Beloit College in 1971, and an M.S.W. in 1975 from the University of Michigan. Notestein was a VISTA volunteer, became a social worker, and worked eight years for the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee, eventually becoming its director.
From 1983-1984, Notestein (a member and former president of the National Women's Political Caucus of Milwaukee and member of the N.O.W. was a member of the Wisconsin Women's Council. She was first elected to the Assembly in 1984 as a Democrat from the newly-renumbered 12th [formerly 4th] Assembly district (basically the East Side of Milwaukee) to succeed fellow Democrat Barbara Ulichny, who was successfully pursuing election to the Wisconsin State Senate. Notestein narrowly defeated gay rights activist Leon Rouse in the Democratic primary (1740-1657 in a three-way race), but carried the general election easily, with 15,606 votes to 8137 for Republican C. William Jordahl.
In later years, she faced no serious challenge in the primary or general elections, even after redistricting changed the boundaries of her own district (now the 19th) to the south; in some general elections, her only challenge came from candidates of the Taxpayer's Party. From 1991-1994 she was Assistant Majority Leader. She chose not to seek re-election in 1998, citing in part the frustration of minority status since 1994 for Assembly Democrats, and was succeeded by fellow Democrat Jon Richards.
Safe and Sound
- "Barbara Notestein". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
- "Notestein, Barbara 1949". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
- Theobald, H. Rupert; Robbins, Patricia V., eds. The State of Wisconsin 1985-1986 Blue Book Madison: Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, distributed by Document Sales, 1985-1986; pp. 29, 906, 925
- Lamke, Kenneth R. "Notestein Says She Won't Run for Re-election" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel May 1, 1998
- Safe&Sound staff
- The White House-Champions of Change