Lillian Rock fought for the advancement of women both as a lawyer and as the founder of the League for a Woman President and Vice President. Rock founded the League in 1935 and began proposing and backing noted women judges and civil servants for election to higher office. Rock wrote on women’s equality for a number of popular magazines and in 1939 she toured Latin American countries to research the status of women abroad. She was also an organizer for the Bronx division of the American Jewish Congress and offered her legal expertise to both Jewish organizations and women’s rights organizations.
Lillian Rock had great energy, enthusiasm, creativity, and willingness to give money and time to the causes that concerned her: equality for women, advancement of the poor, and Jewish organizations.
Early Life and Career
Rock was born in New York City on August 6, 1896, to Joel and Ida Libby (Gross) Rock and had at least two brothers and a sister. She graduated with an LL.B. from Brooklyn Law School in 1923. In 1925, at age twenty-nine, she was admitted to the New York bar and began to practice. When her brother Nathaniel was admitted to the bar, Rock took him in and became the senior partner of Rock and Rock in New York City. After eleven years of practice, she claimed to have handled over five thousand cases. The exact nature of most of these cases is unknown, but some involved landlord/tenant matters.
Rock focused her attention outside of work on promoting the election of women to public office. With a highly developed sense of public relations, she dealt well and frequently with the press. She wrote for popular magazines and was far ahead of her time in her opinions on social policy.
In 1935, she founded the League for a Woman President and Vice President, with membership open to both women and men. The name was later revised to the League for a Woman for President and Other Offices, and its membership grew to three thousand. Its aim was to convince one of the major parties to name a woman candidate for vice president or president of the United States. Rock proposed Florence E. Allen, a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, as president of the United States, and backed Josephine Roche, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, for higher office. In July 1939, Rock embarked on a month-long plane tour of South American countries with Mrs. Lionel Sutro to research the status of women in those countries.
Affiliations and Legacy
Rock joined dozens of organizations and was counsel to some of them. She was a member of the New York Country Lawyers Association, the Bronx Women’s Bar Association, the International Federation of Women Lawyers, and other women’s professional and Jewish organizations. She served as vice president of the National Association of Women Lawyers and was the legal adviser for the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund for University Women, an organization that supported third-world women’s projects. The size of her membership responsibilities was so vast that, at times, she mistakenly thought that she held certain offices and made unauthorized changes.
A Reform Jew, she was an organizer of the Bronx division of the American Jewish Congress and a member of Congregation Temple Beth Elohim and Montefiore Congregation.
With her remarkable abilities, Rock enjoyed associating with other women of achievement. Her direct gaze reflected her inner strength and unequivocal determination. Flamboyant in dress, particularly in her hats, she lived luxuriously at Sutton Place in Manhattan, collecting art objects and rare books. Death came suddenly on May 13, 1974. She was buried in Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Queens, New York, survived by two brothers, a sister, and two nephews.
NYTimes, July 20, 1939, and Obituary. May 15, 1974, 48:3.
WWIAJ 3 (1938): 862.