73 B.U. L. Rev. 39 (1993)
Women on the Federal Bench

handle is hein.journals/bulr73 and id is 51 raw text is: ESSAY
A few months ago when Justice Marshall was sitting in the Court of
Appeals for the Second Circuit, I had the pleasure of joining him at the table
in the judges' lunchroom. In the course of our conversation over lunch,
Justice Marshall told the following story about the first woman to sit on a
New York court. An enthusiastic, newly naturalized Italian immigrant
appeared in court to represent himself. Oh, he said. This is such a won-
derful country. There is no place in the world like America. Imagine, the
judge was sick this morning, and he was so anxious not to disappoint me
that he sent his wife in his place. The judge in this incident was probably
Dorothy Kenyon who had an interim appointment from Mayor Laguardia
to the Municipal Court of New York City in 1939. Or it might have been
Birdie Amsterdam who was elected to a full term on the Municipal Court in
the following year, and who much later, in 1958, became the first woman
elected to the Supreme Court of New York County.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Woll-
stonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,' which helped to spark
the struggle for equality and suffrage for women that finally resulted, 128
years later, in the adoption in this country of the Nineteenth Amendment to
the United States Constitution.
Although the legal status of women changed between 1792 and 1920, it
was not until after women gained the right to vote that any woman was
appointed as a judge. First, women had to be permitted to study and prac-
tice law. In 1869, Arabella Mansfield became the first American woman
licensed to practice as a lawyer when she was admitted to the Iowa bar.
Although in that same year Myra Bradwell was denied admission to the
Illinois bar because she was a woman, she was later welcomed to the bar of
Illinois and was recognized as one of the eminent lawyers of her time. New
York was somewhat slower than the frontier states, and it was not until 1886
that New York admitted its first woman to the bar, Kate Stoneman.
Our focus this afternoon is on the bench, and more specifically, the federal
* United States District Judge, Southern District of New York. Speech given on May
6, 1992 at the New York County Lawyers' Luncheon Forum, sponsored by the
Committee on the Federal Courts.
Knopf, Inc. 1992) (1792).

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