Exhibit: Women Who Dared
BiographiesMultimediaBy CityAbout WWD Jewish Gender Activism
What She Said
  Ruth Abrams
  Supreme Judicial Court Justice
  Boston WWD Event 2001
  Born in 1930
  First woman to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and supporter of equal rights
Biography  up to top

Ruth Abrams was born in 1930 and raised in Newton, Massachusetts, at a time when her family was the only Jewish family on the block. Her family attended Temple Emanuel, where she had a Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

Encouraged by her grandmother and her father, Abrams attended Radcliffe College and Harvard Law School, one of only 13 women to graduate from her law school class. Abrams began her legal career in private practice with her brother, before moving to the District Attorney's office. After serving as staff counsel for the Supreme Judicial Court and as a Superior Court Judge, Abrams became the first woman on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1978. As an SJC judge, Abrams fought for issues including family leave, medical care, gender equity, and minority rights. She retired at the end of 2000.

What She Said  up to top
Right from the beginning we were always growing and changing, responding to what was needed ...More 
[My grandmother's] influence only was that she wanted her sons to go to college and her granddaughters to go to college ...More 
Probably my father [was a role model]... I didn't have any women role models. [My father] kept saying, 'Women's day is going to come ...More 
I learned about gender bias in a sort of subtle way, because my father sent me to the courthouse. The clerks would wait on everybody else, because they thought I was a secretary ...More  Audio available
[Law is] a clearly male profession still. You have to do as well as you can, you have to work at it, and you get some acceptances ...More 
Arguments used to start, 'Gentlemen of the court.' And one day I was talking at the Mass Bar about seeing justice practiced, and I said, 'You know, when that argument starts "gentlemen of the court," I start fantasizing how can that lawyer lose.' And honest to God, it changed over night ...More 
The clubs were always hard. Because lawyers tend to go to the Union Club or the Algonquin Club ...More 
I guess I would [define myself as a feminist.] What I want for women is equality - a chance for them to have choices in life, as men would ...More 
I had a theory, I used to say when I spoke, 'always look back and take another woman with you.' ...More 
I would hope that it is clearly easier for women lawyers to become judges now. It is clearly more accepting ...More 
I suppose my very first major woman case was [when] the Supreme Court, in what had to be a terrible opinion, said it was ok for insurance companies not to cover pregnancy ...More 
Multimedia  up to top
Photographs Photographs
Audio Clips Audio 
Answer - Being a Woman Activist (Ruth Abrams - bias)
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How to Cite This Page
For a bibliography: Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Ruth Abrams." <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pruthabrams>.

For a footnote: Jewish Women's Archive, "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Ruth Abrams," <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pruthabrams>.