Legal Divas of Color: Jane Bolin

Legal Divas of Color: Jane Bolin

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Jane Bolin was born in Poughkeepsie, NY on April 11, 1908. Her father was an attorney, and cared for young Jane after her mother died. A brilliant student, she graduated top of her class at Wellesley College, in spite of the challenges presented due to the racist views of her classmates and teachers. Imagine going to school, and everyone ignoring you, day after day; this is what Ms. Bolin had to overcome. She was discouraged from pursuing her goal of becoming an attorney, most notably by her college career counselor. Pushing on, Ms. Bolin became the first woman of color to receive a law degree from the very prestigious Yale Law School in 1931.

In her professional career, Ms. Bolin was the first African American to join the New York City Bar Association. She became the first African American assistant corporate counsel for New York City (New York Law Department). Her smarts and tenacity did not go unnoticed. Mayor Fiorello Laguardia called her to appear with him at the World’s Fair on July 22, 1939. The mayor gave her the biggest surprise of her career; he appointed her as a judge, making her the FIRST African American judge in the United States! She was 31 at the time of appointment.

Judge Bolin served in the Family court division until her mandatory retirement at age 70. She was reappointed three more times by three different mayors. She took on racist policies, and fought for the rights of children and parents of all races. Until her death in 2007, she served on a variety of boards, including the NAACP. She also worked with Eleanor Roosevelt on a holistic program aimed at reducing crime in the male juvenile population.

Judge Jane Bolin, I thank you for being the ORIGINAL Legal Diva

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