Jane Matilda Bolin was a trailblazer for Black women.
Bolin was born in Poughkeepsie, NY, on April 11, 1908 to Matilda and Gaius Bolin, the latter a lawyer, judge and president of the Duchess County Bar Association.
Bolin, the youngest of four children, was the first Black woman to graduate from Yale Law School (1931). She was also the first Black woman to be admitted to the New York City Bar Association and to serve as the city’s corporation counsel.
Despite an unsuccessful run as a Republican for a New York Assembly seat in 1936, Bolin would break another glass ceiling by being sworn in as a judge for Family Court (formerly the Domestic Relations Court) by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia at the New York World’s Fair on July 22, 1939.
Bolin was married and widowed twice, and in 1950 she moved to 21-10 33 Road, part of the 14-building Queensview apartment complex in Long Island City.
As a Republican in predominantly Democratic New York, Bolin was not able to advance her career further. After more than 40 years at Family Court, she was mandated to retire at 70, and she became an education and children’s rights activist.
Bolin quietly passed away two months shy of her 99th birthday on Jan. 8, 2007. Her accomplishments as a pioneer may have been lost to much of the general public, but they are not forgotten.