Jane Matilda Bolin (1908 – 2007) was an groundbreaking woman on many fronts in American history. She was the first African-American woman to graduate from Yale Law School and the first to join the New York City Bar Association. She went on to became the first black woman to serve as a judge in the United States when she was appointed to the bench in 1939.
When Bolin joined Yale Law School she was the only black student, and one of only three women. She became the first African-American woman to receive a law degree from Yale in 1931 and passed the New York State Bar examination in 1932.
Bolin served on the Family Court bench for four decades, advocating for children and families. She also served on the boards of the NAACP, the Child Welfare League, and the National Urban League. She was an activist for racial equality, education and children’s rights.
“Those gains we have made were never graciously and generously granted. We have had to fight every inch of the way—in the face of sometimes insufferable humiliations.”