New York Family Court: The Story of Jane Bolin
Jane Matilda Bolin was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on April 11, 1908 to a Native American and African American mixed race father and an English mother. Her father was a lawyer for over 50 years in Poughkeepsie and served as a role model for his daughter’s grounding breaking future career. She attended Wellesley College and was named a Wellesley scholar for becoming one of the top 20 women in her class. She received her BA with honors in 1928. After graduation she announced her intention to attend Yale Law School. Her father originally opposed her desire, feeling that law was not a suitable profession for a woman. She choose to attend anyway and in 1931 became the first African American Woman to graduate from Yale Law School. A year later she was admitted to the New York Bar and began working with her father and brother at their law firm in Poughkeepsie. On April 7, 1937, she was named assistant corporate counsel in NYC’s law department. She worked this job for two years before being appointed justice of the Domestic Relations Court of the City of New York (this court was later named Family Court) by Mayor Fiorello La Gaurdia. This made her the first Black Female Judge in America. She presided over Family Court until she reached the mandatory 70 year retirement age. She won numerous awards for her career and contributions to the field of Family Law. She died in 2007 at the age of 98.