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Justine Wise Polier

As the first woman judge appointed in New York State, Justine Wise Polier focused on helping the most vulnerable population: children. Born to an outspoken rabbi father and a mother deeply involved in volunteer work, Polier took up the family tradition of social justice in college by helping textile workers unionize. As a young lawyer, she criticized the corrupt and racist social services of the time. Becoming a judge meant the chance to change the system from within. From the bench, Polier helped reform both foster care and the school system in New York, ensuring that minority children got access to services. She also worked an informal second shift, volunteering for important causes late at night after her official duties for the day were ended, ranging from prison reform to trying to evacuate Jewish children from Europe during the Holocaust.

More on: Labor, Unions, Volunteers, Law
Justine Wise Polier
Full image
Justine Wise Polier as a young judge.
Courtesy of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
Date of Birth
April 12, 1903
Place of Birth
Portland, Oregon
Date of Death
July 31, 1987

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Justine Wise Polier." (Viewed on December 10, 2018) <>.


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