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Justine Wise Polier

"Passionate concern may lead to errors of judgment, but the lack of passion in the face of human wrong leads to spiritual bankruptcy..."

An outspoken activist and a "fighting judge," Justine Wise Polier was the first woman Justice in New York. For 38 years she used her position on the Family Court bench to fight for the rights of the poor and disempowered. She strove to implement juvenile justice law as treatment, not punishment, making her court the center of a community network that encompassed psychiatric services, economic aid, teachers, placement agencies, and families.

A prolific writer and a passionate speaker, she lent her voice to the struggle against injustice whenever she saw it. Her words went everywhere, from popular articles to endless letters to the editor, to legal journals. No matter what the personal cost, she was brutally honest about her experiences with a system that often failed the very children it was created to protect.

For Polier, to be a Jew meant an unwavering commitment to uphold the rights of all people. Though she came from a privileged background, she had a deep understanding of how the sufferings of poverty and racism brought most children to her court. Never naive, always with a clear view of the ways in which power worked, she remained firm in her faith that championing the cause of justice could truly change the world.

Notes:

  1. "Passionate concern may lead to..." quote from Justine Wise Polier, "Basic Elements of Friendly Frontiers," Christ Church, October 14, 1952, Justine Wise Polier papers, box 45, folder 563. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, page 3.
  2. Caption to Justine Wise Polier with Mrs. Andre Taylor...: the quote "One of the most troubling aspects..." is from Justine Wise Polier, Oral History, conducted by Columbia University, Butler Library, Oral History Research Office, [1982], Polier papers box 1, folder 3, page 5-6
  3. Caption to Justine Wise Polier: the quote "There was nothing soft or charitable..." is from an observation written by a Teacher's College student after a field trip to Polier's court, 1943, Polier Papers, box 3, folder 28.

Family Legacy

"My parents were among the first progressive parents who thought their children should always be at the dinner table to be heard as well as seen."

Justine Wise Polier came from a family with a tradition of staunch, unyielding principles. Both her parents had committed their lives to "battles for social justice," and always encouraged Justine and her older brother to "speak out and speak up."

Justine's father, the prominent Rabbi Stephen Wise, established the Free Synagogue to ensure he could speak with absolute freedom in the pulpit. He was one of the founders of the American Jewish Congress, a leading advocate of an Israeli state, a supporter of the NAACP from its inception, and a pro-labor activist.

Her mother, Louise Waterman Wise, painter and ardent Zionist, founded a Jewish foster care and adoption agency. Later renamed Louise Wise Services in her honor, it also provided assistance for unwed mothers. Polier assumed the agency's leadership in 1944 and soon reorganized it to be interracial and non-sectarian.

The Wise home was "a place where people came from everywhere without any feeling of looking up or looking down." As Polier remembered, "I was one of the most fortunate of children because my parents shared so much- in their ideals, their work...And perhaps most important they...never gave us the feeling they were too busy or engaged in anything more important than their life with us."

Notes:

  1. For "My parents were among the first progressive parents..." quote as well as the reference to their "battles for social justice," and her home as "a place where people came from everywhere..." see Justine Wise Polier, Oral History, conducted by Columbia University, Butler Library, Oral History Research Office, [1982], Polier papers box 1, folder 3, page 1.
  2. "speak out and speak up," quote from Stephen Wise, Letter to Justine Wise, 27 Jan. 1926, in Justine Wise Polier papers, box 1, folder 15.
  3. "I was one of the most fortunate..." Justine Wise Polier, Letter to Mrs. Michael Applebaum. Reprinted in Applebaum's speech, "Justine Wise Polier-Jurist." [1974], Polier Papers, box 47, folder 589.
  4. Caption to Stephen Wise and Justine Wise: the quote "one of my first recollections as a child..." is from Justine Wise Polier, Oral History, Columbia University 12.

An Unusual Education

"My education was fairly conventional until I went to work in a textile mill in Passaic, New Jersey when I finished college."

Polier's "fairly conventional" college education included transfers from Bryn Mawr to Radcliffe to Barnard. She was continually in search of more advanced economic courses and "fed up on dried-up old maids studying problems of people about whom they knew nothing."

At Radcliffe, sensing that she "wasn't close enough to people," she moved out of "that blue-stocking world" to live in a settlement house and teach English. At Barnard, she did research on women's workplace injuries and the inadequacy of their workmen's compensation.

"After that, to experience labor conditions at first hand," Polier worked nights at textile factories in Passaic, New Jersey. "Those were the days of the battles for the right to organize, and the conditions of workers were abominable." The women she worked with spent their days on housework and tending their children in terrible slums, and their nights in the factory for starvation wages.

Because Rabbi Wise's pro-labor stance was well known, Polier used her mother's maiden name, Waterman, at the mills. But anti-union spies soon discovered her true identity. "We know who you are, you are Rabbi Wise's daughter," she was told—and promptly blacklisted from all Passaic's factories.

Notes:

  1. "My education was fairly conventional..." quote from Polier, Oral History, Columbia University 1.
  2. "fed up on dried-up old maids..." quoted in Joyce Antler. The Journey Home: Jewish Women and the American Century (New York: The Free Press, 1997) 186.
  3. On Polier's feeling that she "wasn't close enough to people...", see Justine Wise Polier, Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, [1982], Polier papers, box 1, folder 3, page 7.
  4. "After that, to experience labor conditions at first hand," Polier, Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, 7.
  5. "Those were the days of the battles of..." quote from Polier, Oral History, Columbia University 1.
  6. On the conditions of women laborers as observed by Polier, see Justine Wise Polier, "Passaic," ts undated, box 1, folder 16, Polier papers.
  7. For the story of Polier's blacklisting and, "We know who you are...," quote, see "Deposition of Justine Wise, City of New Haven," 24 April 1926, Polier papers, box 1, folder 15.

Workers' Rights

"My father said that he knew my intentions were good, but he questioned what skills I had to do anything about them."

In light of her factory experiences, Polier decided to enroll in Yale law school, "since it would be a good idea to get some legal background and know what my rights and the rights of other people were." "By the end of my second year [1926], the great textile strike had broken out in Passaic where I had worked, so I commuted between Yale Law School and Passaic, to the horror of some of the reputable people at Yale."

The press termed Polier a "Joan of Arc" and reported on her fiery speeches against the "feudal tyranny" of the mill, its terrible conditions and its "octopus-like espionage system." Meanwhile Stephen and Louise Wise were, as always, "very understanding and very supportive even when I caused plenty of trouble," and sent letters and telegrams urging "love courage hope." Her father also joined her in addressing the strikers, helping to raise funds for their relief and gathering support in Washington.

Police brutality against the strikers brought the struggle into the national spotlight, but mill owners still refused to negotiate for almost a year. Finally in December of 1927 the textile workers won their demands for the right to unionize.

Notes:

  1. For quotes "My father said that he knew..."; "since it would be a good idea to get some legal background..."; "By the end of my second year..."; and on parents role as "very understanding and very supportive ..." see Polier, Oral History, Columbia University 2.
  2. Quotes from Polier's speeches given in Antler, Journey 188.
  3. "love courage hope" from Louise and Stephen Wise, telegram to Justine Wise, 24 February 1926, Polier papers, box 1, folder 15.
  4. On Stephen Wise's role in the strike see Polier, Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, 9, and Carl Hermann Voss, Rabbi and Minister (Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1964) 232-236.
  5. On the course of the strike and police brutality, see Mary Heaton Vorse, The Passaic Textile Strike (Passaic, New Jersey: General Relief Committee of Textile Strikers, 1927).

Just Like Her Father

At Yale, Polier met her first husband, a young law professor named Lee Tulin. Their son Stephen was born right before she took the Bar, and soon afterwards the family moved to New York. Lee died in 1932 after a struggle with leukemia. "Those were terrible years," but Polier pushed on, continuing to work and turning to friends for help with caring for Stephen.

Preferring social legislation to practicing law, Polier worked as the first woman referee and later Assistant Corporate Council for the Workman's Compensation Division, helping to eliminate system-wide corruption and draft new laws.

When Mayor LaGuardia offered her a judgeship on the Domestic Relations Court in 1935, Polier turned it down. More interested in labor issues, she also worried she was being "kicked upstairs" to silence her criticisms of New York's relief system. But LaGuardia convinced her to visit the court, and she was "absolutely fascinated." She began a temporary appointment that summer.

By fall, her customary outspokenness had almost lost her the new position. When General Johnson, New York's "economic czar," announced that "welfare people" were "loafers" who belonged in jail, Polier called a press conference, denouncing his inadequate depression strategies. LaGuardia demanded she retract her statements, threatening that he would not renew her appointment.

He complained that, like her father, she said whatever she wanted to, "and didn't care about the consequences." Polier refused to recant, and eventually the mayor relented, swearing her in as a permanent judge.

Notes:

  1. On Polier's days at Yale, her marriage to Tulin and his death, including "Those were terrible years," quote see Polier, Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, 9.
  2. On the help Polier received from friends in raising Stephen, see Antler, Journey 190.
  3. On Polier's work as first woman referee and later Assistant Corporate Council, see Polier, Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, 9-10. Also see Justine Wise Polier, interview with Thomas F. Soapes, 14 September 1977, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York. Box 1, folder 2, pages 6-8.
  4. For quotes on concern over being "kicked upstairs," and being, "absolutely fascinated" see Barbara Campbell, "A Battling Judge Retires To Aid Minority Children," New York Times 3 February 1973.
  5. On her fight with General Johnson and LaGuardia including "and didn't care about the consequences" quote see Polier, Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, 10-12. Also see: "Work or Jail," New York Evening Journal, 28 August 1935; "Two City Aids Flay Johnson for Job Delay," New York Post 28 August 1935; "Says Mrs. Tulin is to Lose Post," NY World Telegram 10 Sept. 1935.

But Can She Cook?

"When the first man to emerge from her courtroom was asked how it had gone, he replied, 'Well, the judge wasn't there—but his wife treated me just fine.'"

As the first woman judge in New York state, Polier received a good deal of publicity. Throughout the next two decades, columnists reassured readers that the logical, efficient Polier also liked "pretty things, a nice suit or a dress just like any other woman." In one article, Polier's long list of accomplishments were offset by only one shortcoming: "She can't cook."

The press also noted Polier's description of herself as a "poor feminist." She told reporters there was no special need for women judges, only "a tremendous need for good people on the bench, but not women necessarily." But Polier's absolute commitment to justice made her a powerful advocate for poor women throughout her life. In the 1920s she was fighting for the Passaic women laborers. In the 1980s she was condemning the federal ban on funding for poor women's medically necessary abortions.

Polier saw feminism as just one, inseparable part of a greater struggle. In 1973 she commented that, "Surely, the concern for the liberation of women need not and should not be separated from the struggle by women to protect and advance the freedom of all those still denied equal opportunities and full participation in the life of this country."

Notes:

  1. "when the first man..." quote from James Mills, "The War Against Children," Life 19 May 1972: 58.
  2. "She says she likes pretty things..." quote from Naomi Jolles, "Close-up," New York Post, April 19, 1945.
  3. "She can't cook," quote from Betty Walker, "Why She Strives for Justice," Chicago Sun Times 11 Dec. 1950.
  4. "a tremendous need for good people..." quoted in Dorothy Kilgallen, "No Hero," NY Evening Journal 9 July 1935.
  5. "Surely, the concern for the liberation..." quote from Justine Wise Polier, "In Defense of Human Rights," commencement address, Bryn Mawr, May 14, 1973, Polier papers box 47, folder 587, 4.
  6. On Polier and the right for funding to poor women for medically necessary abortions, see Joyce Antler, "Justine Wise and the Prophetic Tradition," unpublished essay, 1998, 19.

The Wiltwyck School

"When I went on the court, there was complete racial segregation and almost a complete exclusion of non-white children from private social services in New York, certainly from any of the residential services. Non-white children were placed in very few segregated and inferior institutions; they weren't even considered for adoption and were rarely considered for foster home care...."

Although the state relied on private sectarian agencies to provide services, these organizations often denied children treatment and foster care because they were not white. And because there were no private services at all for young black Protestant boys, judges were forced to wait until a needy child "committed a felony" or grew old enough to be sent to the state training school. Polier was "so horrified" that in 1936 she "collected a group of 20 cases and went down to LaGuardia." The mayor sent her to the Episcopalian Mission Society which agreed to open the Wiltwyck School for boys in upstate New York.

When the Mission Society decided to close the school in 1942, Polier enlisted friends like Eleanor Roosevelt to help her reestablish it as non-sectarian and interracial. From then on, Polier served as member of the board, including eight years as its president. Wiltwyck continued its work as an important rehabilitative center for children until 1983, when it was overcome by a lack of funding.

Notes:

  1. "When I went on the court, there was..." quote from Polier, Oral History, Columbia University, 4-5.
  2. On the lack of services for Black Protestant children under 12 and the quote "committed a felony," see Justine Wise Polier, Letter to Naomi Levine, Esq. 31 July 1973, Polier papers, box 21, folder 251.
  3. On establishing Wiltwyck and "so horrified" quote see Polier, Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, 12-13.
  4. On Wiltwyck's origins and its growth, see "Wiltwyck Names Judge Polier to Top Honorary Position," The Yorktowner, 17 July 1969.

A Second Day

"Asked how she could possibly have endured 36 years of witnessing day by day the tragedies of children, she answers, 'I tell myself each time that I am trying to do the best that can be done for this one child in front of me now. And then, starting after court, I try to do what I can for the others like him.'"

During what she called her "second day," Polier worked to broaden services to troubled children and their families with organizations like the Citizen's Committee for Children, the Field Foundation, Louise Wise Services, and the Wiltwyck School. "We hadn't gotten into the state that anybody who was a professional person had to be paid for lifting a pencil ...So, one lived two lives—one worked during the day at one's job, and then pitched into the things that seemed most important at night."

The "second day" also meant time for family. It was while pitching in at a night meeting that Justine met Shad Polier, a constitutional lawyer. He became her second husband in 1936 and father of her two younger children, Trudy and Jonathon. Justine and Shad also weathered the pain of losing a newborn son in 1944. "Considered one of New York City's most devoted couples," reported one newspaper, "after work they both rush home for an early dinner." The couple were "always working together on all sorts of issues, in addition to our life with our children."

Notes:

  1. "Asked how she could possibly have..." quote from Mills 58.
  2. "We hadn't gotten into that state..." quote from Justine Wise Polier, "Woman Lawyer in the Depression: An Oral History," interview with Ann Fagan Ginger, The National Lawyers Guild Practitioner 39.4 (1982), Polier papers, box 1, folder 3, 126.
  3. "Considered one of New York's most..." quote from Betty Walker, "Why She Strives for Justice," Chicago Sun Times 11 Dec. 1950.
  4. "always working together on all sorts of issues..." quote from Polier, Oral History, Columbia University, 3.

Vital Heritage

"By dint of our heritage, our faith, the intuitive and all but instinctive reaction of the Jew against injustice or the violation of human dignity, we are committed to the battle for human freedom—whether it is or is not good for the survival of the Jewish people."

Polier was deeply moved by the Jewish prophetic tradition of commitment to justice. She often spoke of this "vital heritage" as the most important guiding force in her life.

Polier's concern for Jewish rights meant that, like her parents, she was a committed Zionist. She also served as vice-president of the American Jewish Congress, and president of its women's division. During W.W.II Polier attempted, with help from Eleanor Roosevelt, to convince the American state department to let in 10,000 German Jewish children. Mourning her failure and the lives lost, she remembered, "how fearful Jews were here, afraid of stirring up trouble that might affect their position."

For Polier, being a Jew meant she was morally obligated to speak out against injustice, even if it endangered her own life or the life of her people. Time after time she criticized American Jews for losing themselves in materialism and abandoning their responsibility to justice for "all human beings."

Notes:

  1. "By dint of our heritage, our faith..." and "vital heritage" quotes from Justine Wise Polier, "The Jewish Commitment," The Jewish Echo, 12 Sept. 1958.
  2. "how fearful Jews were here..." quote from Polier, Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, 19.
  3. On Judaism as a commitment to justice for all peoples and on the dangers of materialism and assimilation, see Justine Wise Polier, "The Future of World Jewry," Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, New York City, March 16, 1957, Polier papers, box 45, folder 568; Justine Wise Polier, "Prophetic Judaism: Fossil or Living Legacy?" address at Brandeis University, 1959, Polier papers, box 46, folder 570; and Antler, "Justine Wise and the Prophetic Tradition," and Journey. Also, for "to all human beings" quote see Justine Wise Polier, "Who are our Neighbors," Congress Monthly, April 1976, Polier papers, box 48, folder 596.

The Skipwith Case

Throughout her career, Polier used her court to fight religious and racial discrimination. Her most famous and influential decision in this battle was the 1958 In the matter of Skipwith. The Skipwiths, along with a group of other black parents, boycotted the segregated public school where they believed their daughter was receiving an inferior education. In response, the Board of Education charged the parents with neglect.

Residential discrimination meant that New York public schools were segregated in reality (de facto), but not by law (de jure) as in the South. This made northern segregation much more difficult to combat in court, but Polier's Skipwith decision helped publicize the issue and make it more vulnerable to legal action.

Polier ruled that while the Board was not responsible for existing de facto segregation, it was still at fault for providing an inferior education to children in non-white schools, which had demonstrably fewer and less qualified teachers. Polier condemned the Board of Education as committing a "terrible injustice" towards children, "who already have to suffer the blighting effect of segregation." She stated that until the Board of Education corrected this situation, "it has no moral or legal right to ask that this Court shall punish parents or deprive them of custody of their children, for refusal to accept an unconstitutional condition which exists in the schools."

Notes:

  1. Some examples of case by case basis on which Polier fought: In the matter of Kirk ____ and Wesley ___ alleged to be neglected children, Elsa Edlit (SPCC), petitioner against Vivian Odems, mother and William Bell, father, respondents, p.4-10, 11 March 1966, Polier's Manuscripts, box 19 folder 229; On Petition of ___, In the Matter of John ___15, and Charles ___ 5, Domestic Relations Court of the City of New York, Children's Court Divisions, County of NY, part I, 7 July 193, Polier's Manuscripts, box 22 folder 256. All cases cited in Rachel Nash, "Justine Wise Polier: The Conscience of the Juvenile Court." Thesis. Harvard University, 1998.
  2. On the implications of Polier's decision, see Nash 72-78.
  3. For Polier's decision and quotes on "terrible injustice" and, "it has no moral or legal right to ask..." see Justine Wise Polier, "In the Matter of Charlene Skipwith, Sheldon Rector, children twelve years of age," 15 Dec. 1958, Polier papers, box 21 folder 247.

Wilder v. Sugarman

Despite the changes brought by "Brown v. The Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act and the interpretation of civil rights by various courts," Polier spent her final years on the bench still battling the everyday presence of institutional racism. While white children were quickly accepted by private sectarian agencies, a "disproportionate number of Black children" were left in temporary shelters and rejected from voluntary residential treatment programs subsidized by the state.

When Polier's attempts to find foster care placement for Shirley Wilder, a young Black Protestant girl, met with typical rejection from every suitable agency, the judge helped initiate a class action suit. Wilder v. Sugarman, begun in 1974, charged both public and private foster care agencies with unconstitutionally discriminating on the basis of religion and race.

Because all foster care agencies in New York were listed as defendants, Louise Wise Services was included in the group being sued. As chairman of its board, Polier publicly proclaimed that her non-sectarian, interracial agency supported Wilder and the plaintiffs' position. But other powerful Jewish agencies vocally denounced the suit, claiming it impinged on children's right to religious freedom. Once again, Polier found herself speaking out against colleagues and friends.

The controversial Wilder v. Sugarman case spanned more than two decades of litigation, appeals and settlements. In the 1990s, its "ramifications are still being felt as New York City struggles to improve the placement process."

Notes:

  1. For "the changes that have occurred as a result of Brown..." quote and statistics on discrimination, see Justine Wise Polier, Letter to Naomi Levine, Esq. 31 July 1973, Polier papers, box 21, folder 251.
  2. The case has spanned more than two decades: see Wilder v. Sugarman, 385 F. Supp. 1013 (S.D.N.Y. 1974); Wilder v. Bernstein, 499 F. Supp. 980 (S.D.N.Y. 1980); Wilder v. Bernstein, 645 F. Supp. 1292 (S.D.N.Y. 1986), aff'd, 848 F.2d 1338 (2d Cir. 1988); Wilder v. Bernstein, 725 F. Supp. 1324 (S.D.N.Y. 1989), aff'd, 965 F.2d 1196 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 113 S. Ct. 410 (1992), Wilder v. Bernstein, 153 F.R.D. 524 (S.D.N.Y. 1994), appeal dismissed. Case history listed in Wilder v. Bernstein 153 F.R.D. 524, United States Court of Appeals for The Second Circuit, 23 February 1995.
  3. On the position of Louise Wise Agencies as well as that of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York and others, see correspondence, notes and position paper drafts in Polier papers, box 21, folders 251-254.
  4. "ramifications are still being felt as New York City struggles to improve the placement process." quote from Knitzer, Jane. "Do Children Have a Future?" Readings June 1990: 11.

Children's Defense Fund

"When I left the family court after 37 or 38 years in harness I had no intention of working full-time. I came here to work three days a week....My husband says I work eight."

Polier spent her retirement monitoring national juvenile detention policies for the Children's Defense Fund. "I know when I retired I thought I was going to have a quiet contemplative life of just writing. Then there was this request ...to try to get the problems of children before the public. I couldn't refuse." Polier traveled to every state, uncovering and publicizing abominable conditions and keeping the plight of juvenile justice before public eyes.

In one Southern state Polier found that "black children were thrown into jails with black adults charged with crimes and white children were thrown into jails with white adults charged with crimes rather than place black and white children together. Both black and white children had been raped, burned with cigarettes and tortured by adult inmates." And as Polier reminded people across the nation, this situation was by no means atypical. "One need not go South to discover the injuries to children which result from discrimination or indifference, too often rationalized on the ground that neighbors did not know about them."

Notes:

  1. "When I left the family court after 37..." quote from Jack Robbins, "Daily Close-up," New York Post 22 May 1975.
  2. "I know when I retired I thought ..." quote from the Milly Wohler, "Judge Polier speaks on juvenile justice system...," Oregonian, 11 Sept. 1975.
  3. For the quotes "black children were thrown into jails..." and "One need not go South..." see Justine Wise Polier, "Who are our Neighbors," Congress Monthly, April 1976, Polier papers, box 48, folder 596.

A Life's Work

"We have lost a sense of personal responsibility and sensitivity to people, and our faith that we can do more for people who need help if we care. In other words, I don't believe we can have justice without caring, or caring without justice. These are inseparable aspects of life and work for children as they are for adults."

Polier's ideal of justice was infused with empathy. She always acted out of her conviction that "I might have committed every crime or offense charged against the children brought before me. That I had not was largely a matter of luck, privilege, and always feeling loved." Observers in her court noted the deep respect and individual attention with which she treated children and families. She never wore her heavy judicial robes, because she found, "There is nothing about a black robe that encourages a child to talk to me like a human being."

At the same time, Polier insisted compassion was worthless unless accompanied by a commitment to justice. She was enraged by "so-called well- intentioned people...[who] felt they had the right to bestow their charity...on those whom they chose to help, without any regard to those whom they excluded." Although she had never planned to serve more than a few years in the Family Court, Polier stayed for almost four decades, because "As case after case came up, I saw the vast chasms between our rhetoric of freedom, equality and charity, and what we were doing to, or not doing for, poor people, especially children." She spent a lifetime working towards a day when "the welfare of others" might come to be recognized "not as a dirty word, but as a central concern for all."

Notes:

  1. "we have lost a sense of personal responsibility..." quote from Polier, Oral History, Columbia University, 11.
  2. "I might have committed every crime..." quote from Polier, Oral History, Columbia University, 4-5.
  3. For descriptions of Polier in court see Mill's Life article and also observations from Teacher's College students after a field trip to Polier's court, 1943, Polier Papers, box 3, folder 28.
  4. "There is nothing about a black robe..." quote from Mills 58.
  5. "so-called well-intentioned people..." and "As case after case came up..." quotes from Polier, Oral History, Columbia University, 4-5.
  6. "the welfare of others..." quote from Polier, "In Defense of Human Rights," 10.

Media

Title Institution Publication Type
Excerpt from "Deposition of Justine Wise, City of New Haven" Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University
Letter from Justine Wise Polier to Hon. Jule Sugarman, Administrator Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University
"On the Way to the Night Shift" Women Laborers Heading for the Passaic Mills image/jpeg
A Judge Finds New York Schools Separate and Unequal image/jpeg
Boys on the Street Center for Law and Education image/jpeg
Caring for the Children While Their Mothers Went On the Picket Line image/jpeg
Chairing a Meeting at Louise Wise Services Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Children in a Juvenile Institution Center for Law and Education image/jpeg
Day Rest After Night in the Mill image/jpeg
Domestic Relations Court Municipal Archives of the City of New York image/jpeg
Girls Playing on the Street Citizen's Committee for Children of New York, INC. image/jpeg
Jeanne D'Arc of the Mills New York Public Library image/jpeg
Judge Polier Addressing Women's Division Plenary Session, Women's Biennial Convention American Jewish Congress image/jpeg
Justine shaking LaGuardia Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier Addressing Passaic Mill Workers image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier and Eleanor Roosevelt at a Banquet for the Wiltwyck School Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier and Others at the Wiltwyck School Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier and Shad Polier Trudy Festinger image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier as a Young Judge Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier at a Mental Health Association of New York Convention Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier in Israel, with children American Jewish Congress image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier Speaking in Israel American Jewish Congress image/jpeg
Justine Wise Polier with Mrs. Andre Taylor, Alfred Taylor, Mr. and Mrs. John James, Stephanie James, Andrew Taylor, Mrs. Jessie Profelt at "Tea for Toys" Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Louise Waterman Wise and Justine Wise American Jewish Historical Society image/jpeg
Mrs. Tulin, Kin of Rabbi Wise, Now Justice Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
New City Relief Director Talks it Over With His Aids Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Parents Boycott Schools image/jpeg
Say Mrs. Tulin to Lose Post Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University image/jpeg
Stephen and Louise After Their Marriage image/jpeg
Stephen Wise and Justine Wise image/jpeg
Textile Strikers Steal March on Passaic Police, Storm Guarded image/jpeg

Timeline

1903

Born April 12 in Oregon to Rabbi Stephen Wise and Louise Waterman Wise; family moves to New York two years later

1920 – 1924

Begins college at Bryn Mawr, transfers to Radcliffe, graduates from Barnard

1923

Works at Elizabeth Peabody Settlement house while attending Radcliffe

1924

Works in textile mills in Passaic, New Jersey

1925

Studies labor relations at International Labor Office in Geneva

1925 – 1928

Attends Yale Law School, editor of Yale Law Journal

1926

Marries Lee Tulin, together they have one son, Stephen

Participates in Passaic mill workers' strike

1929

Becomes first woman referee in Workmen's Compensation Division

1932

Husband, Lee Tulin, dies of leukemia

Prepares Study for the Governors Commission on Medical Costs of Compensation

1934 – 1935

Becomes Assistant Corporation Council for Workmen's Compensation Division;

Serves as Counsel and Secretary to Committee on Unemployment Relief, prepares its highly critical report

1935

Appointed Justice of Domestic Relations Court

First woman judge above magistrate in the state

1936

Marries Shad Polier, together they have two children, Trudy and Jonathan

1941 – 1942

Leave of absence from court to serve as Special Council to Eleanor Roosevelt, Office of Civilian Defense

1942

Establishes the Wiltwyck School for Boys as non-sectarian and interracial

1943

Publishes Everybody's Child, Nobody's Child

1958

In the matter of Skipwith, a case dealing with de facto segregation in schools

1971 – 1974

Helps initiate and assists in class action suit Wilder v. Sugarman (1974)

1973

Retires from Court;

Director of Juvenile Justice Project of the Children's Defense Fund

1987

Dies on July 31 in New York City

1988

Juvenile Justice in Double Jeopardy published posthumously

Bibliography

Published Sources

Amsterdam News 13 September 1958, 1.

Antler, Joyce. The Journey Home: Jewish Women and the American Century. New York: The Free Press, 1997.

——. "Justine Wise Polier." Jewish Women In America. Vol. 2. Paula E. Hyman and Deborah Dash Moore, eds. New York: Routledge, 1997: 1089-1091. Reprinted, Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia, 2005.

——. "Justine Wise and the Prophetic Tradition." Unpublished essay, 1998.

Campbell, Barbara . "A Battling Judge Retires To Aid Minority Children." New York Times 3 February 1973.

De Lima, Agnes. Night-Working Mothers in Textile Mills. New York: The National Consumers League and the Consumers League of New Jersey, 1920.

Harrity, Richard and Ralph G. Martin. Eleanor Roosevelt: Her Life in Pictures. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1958.

Jolles, Naomi. "Close-Up." New York Post 19 April 1945.

Juvenile Delinquency Evaluation Project. Three Residential Treatment Centers: Children's Village, Wiltwyck, Hawthorne. [New York]: 1958.

Kilgallen, Dorothy. "No Hero." NY Evening Journal 9 July 1935.

Knitzer, Jane. "Do Children Have a Future?" Readings June 1990.size>

Mills, James. "The War Against Children." Life 19 May 1972: 58-61.

"Mrs. Tulin, Kin of Rabbi Wise." Clipping with unspecified source, July 1935.

Nash, Rachel. "Justine Wise Polier: The Conscience of the Juvenile Court." Thesis. Harvard University, 1998.

New York Daily News 2 March 1926.

New York Journal 2 March 1926.

"Outspoken Foe of Discrimination." Jewish Exponent 15 April 1960.

Polier, Justine Wise, Luis Alvares, Vincent L. Broderick, Phyllis Harrison Ross, M.D., Robert C. Weaver. Corporal Punishment and School Suspensions: A Case Study. Metropolitan Applied Research Center, 1974.

Polier, Justine Wise and Edmund Murrow. "This I Believe," Radio. 1953. Transcript. Box 45, folder 564.

Polier, Justine Wise: Selected Articles

  • "A Day in Children's Court- As One Judge Sees It." Federal Probation 12 (Dec. 1948): 3-7.
  • "The Invisible Legal Rights of the Poor." Children 12 (Nov.-Dec. 1965): 215-220.
  • "The Jewish Commitment." The Jewish Echo, 12 Sept. 1958.
  • "Religion and Child Care Services." Social Service Review 30 (June 1956): 132-135.
  • "Social Work, Social Problems, and Community Values." Social Service Review 29 (Sept. 1955): 260-266.
  • "Wartime Needs of Children and Federal Responsibility." Federal Probation 8 (April-June 1944): 9-12.

Polier, Justine Wise: Selected Books

  • Back to What Woodshed? Public Affairs Pamphlet, No. 232, 1956.
  • Everybody's Children, Nobody's Child. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1941.
  • Juvenile Justice in Double Jeopardy: The Distanced Community and Vengeful Retribution. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1989.
  • The Rule of Law and the Role of Psychiatry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1968.
  • A View from the Bench. New York: National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1964.

Polier, Justine Wise: Selected Manuscripts, Letters, Speeches and Oral Histories from the Polier Papers

  • Address. American Jewish Congress Convention, Plenary Session. November 9, 1949, Box 45, folder 560.
  • Address. Temporary State Commission on Youth and Delinquency, DeWitt Clinton Hotel, Albany, New York. 5 October 1955. Box 45, folder 566.
  • "Basic Elements of Friendly Frontiers." Christ Church. October 14, 1952. Polier papers, box 45, folder 563.
  • "Deposition of Justine Wise, City of New Haven." 24 April 1926. Box 1, folder 15.
  • "Child Advocacy: What Is It? Why Is It Important? How Can It Be Implemented?" Eastern Regional Conference, C.W.L.A. Atlantic City, New Jersey. 25 April 1974. Polier papers box 47, folder 589.
  • "The Future of World Jewry." Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, New York City. March 16, 1957. Box 45, folder 568.
  • Letter to Hon. Jule Sugarman, Administrator. 6 July 1971. Box 21, folder 251.
  • "In Defense of Human Rights." Commencement address, Bryn Mawr. May 14, 1973. Polier papers box 47, folder 587.
  • Interview with Thomas F. Soapes. 14 September 1977. Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York. Box 1, folder 2.
  • Oral History. Conducted by Columbia University , Butler Library, Oral History Research Office, 1982. Box 1, folder 3.
  • Oral History Interview with Dr. Ernest Goldstein, [1982]. Box 1, folder 3.
  • "Passaic." Ts undated. Box 1, folder 16.
  • "Prophetic Judaism: Fossil or Living Legacy?" Address at Brandeis University, 1959. Box 46, folder 570.
  • "Stephen Wise as I Knew Him." Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, New York City. 15 March 1974. Box 47, folder 589.
  • "Who are our Neighbors?" Congress Monthly April 1976. Box 48, folder 596.
  • "The World We Want to Live In—How to Achieve It." Howard University, 12 March 1947. Box 45, folder 558.
  • "Woman Lawyer in the Depression: An Oral History." Interview with Ann Fagan Ginger. The National Lawyers Guild Practitioner 39.4 (1982): 122-128. Box 1, folder 3.

Robbins, Jack. "Daily Close-up." New York Post 22 May 1975.

"Say Mrs. Tulin is to Lose Post." NY World Telegram 10 Sept. 1935.

U.S. News & World Report 9 Jan. 1959, 82-3.

Vorse, Mary Heaton. The Passaic Textile Strike. Passaic, New Jersey: General Relief Committee of Textile Strikers, 1927.

Voss, Carl Hermann. Rabbi and Minister. Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1964.

Walker, Betty. "Why She Strives for Justice." Chicago Sun Times 11 Dec 1950.

Wilder v. Bernstein. 153 F.R.D. 524. United States Court of Appeals for The Second Circuit. 23 February 1995.

"Wiltwyck Names Judge Polier to Top Honorary Position." The Yorktowner, 17 July 1969.

Wise, Stephen. Stephen S. Wise: Servant of the People. Ed. Carl Hermann Voss. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1969.

Wohler, Milly . "Judge Polier speaks on juvenile justice system..." Oregonian, 11 Sept 1975.

Woolf, Dorothy. "Justine Wise Tulin." Barnard College Alumnae 1 Oct 1935.

Archival Sources

American Jewish Historical Society. New York, NY.

Center for Law and Education, Boston, MA.

Citizens' Committee for Children, New York, NY.

Collections of the Municipal Archives of the City of New York.

Festinger, Trudy.

Shad Polier Memorial Library, American Jewish Congress. New York, NY.

Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, NY.

Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA.

United Press International. Washington, DC.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Justine Wise Polier." (Viewed on July 24, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/polier>.

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