Jane Bolin was busting through barriers long before it was fashionable. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1932. At the time she was one of only three women and the first African American woman to obtain a law degree at Yale. She passed the New York bar the following year. Jane Bolin was the first black women to join the New York City Law Department and was the first black woman to serve as a judge in the United States when she was appointed by Republican Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to the New City Domestic Relations Court in 1939. She served on the bench for 40 years.
This courage to break through obstacles came from her father, Gaius C. Bolin, an attorney, who was the first black to graduate from Williams College. After being to the New York State Bar Association, she started her practice at her family’s firm. In 1933 she married fellow attorney Ralph E. Mizelle and moved to New York City. She unsuccessfully ran for the State Assembly on the Republican ticket in 1936.
She was held to be a thoughtful and considerate family court judge especially when it came to children. Jane Bolin was credited with changing the department’s segregationist policies particularly when it came to case assignments by race. She was reappointed for three more 10 year terms. During this time she also served on the board of the NAACP and the New York Urban League. Finally, at age 70 she was forced to retire whereupon she worked as a consultant and school volunteer and with the New York State Board of Regents. She also joined forces with Eleanor Roosevelt to provide support for the Wiltwyck School for juvenile boys.
Jane Bolin’s personal life presented challenges. She lost her first husband in 1943 when he passed away unexpectedly. She was left to raise her only son by herself. She remarried Walter P. Offut, Jr. in 1950. She passed away in Long Island City, Queens, New York at the ripe age of 98 in 2007.
Jane Bolin was a proud Republican appointed to her judgeship by a Republican and justly took her place on the bench as the consequence of relentless studying, hard work, fairness and courage to take her rightful place as the first woman, the first black woman judge. Jane Bolin was a Republican!