Jane M. Bolin (1908-2007) came from a family of firsts. Her father Gauis Charles Bolin was the first African-American to graduate from Williams College and become a lawyer, so it was only right that she follow in his footsteps. Jane was one of two black students to attend Wellesley College. She graduated in the top 20 of her class in 1928 and became the first and only African American woman to attend Yale Law School, later graduating in 1931 as the first black woman to receive a law degree from the prestigious school.
One year later she further proved that law was her area of expertise when she passed the New York state bar exam. After earning her degree, Bolin served as Assistant Corporation Counsel for NYC’s legal department. When she was 31, mayor Fiorello La Guardia appointed her s a judge of the Domestic Relations Court where she served for 40 years as the first black woman judge in the U.S.
As a judge, Bolin made sure people in the legal system were treated fairly. She was an activist for children’s rights and served on boards from the Child Welfare League to the NAACP. Her story of persistence to follow through with a dream has inspired several women in the legal system today. Living to almost 100-years-old, Jane experienced an entire century and made it look easy despite the hardships.
Photo Credit: Biography