Frieda BarkinHennock

The first woman ever appointed to the Federal Communications Commission, Frieda Barkin Hennock argued that women had a disproportionate stake in the media and helped establish public broadcasting. Hennock’s parents wanted her to become a pianist and refused to pay for her law school education, so she clerked at various law firms during the day and took night classes at Brooklyn Law School, graduating in 1924. A skilled defense lawyer, she won seven acquittals in noted murder trials in 1928 and 1929. She also fundraised for political and feminist causes. In 1941 she became the first woman and first Democrat to join the noted law firm of Choate, Mitchell, and Ely. In 1948 President Truman appointed her to the FCC. During her time in office, she spearheaded efforts to reserve frequencies free from commercial interests for educational television, which became the foundation of PBS. She was appointed a federal district judge for New York in 1951 but withdrew after meeting widespread sexist opposition, continuing her term with the FCC. When Eisenhower chose not to reappoint her in 1955, she returned to law, working in private practice, and acquired a commercial television station in Arkansas.

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Frieda Hennock in 1948.
Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.
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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Frieda Barkin Hennock." (Viewed on March 3, 2021) <>.


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