Women of Valor


Children's Defense Fund

Justine Wise Polier, 1903 - 1987

"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."

  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.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Justine Wise Polier - Children's Defense Fund." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/polier/childrens-defense-fund>.