'Breaking Barriers': The Story Of Female Lawyers, Judges In Mass.24:51

This article is more than 8 years old.
A statue of Lady Justice (Scott*/Flickr)
A statue of Lady Justice (Scott*/Flickr)

Three women currently sit on the United States Supreme Court, and three women sit on Massachusetts highest court, and women make up almost 50 percent of law school students.

Despite those numbers, it can be easy to forget that the law hasn't always been a welcoming profession for women.

In Massachusetts, the legal profession was openly hostile to women for decades. But  in 1882, Leila J. Robinson petitioned the Supreme Judicial Court for the right to join the Massachusetts Bar.

Since Robinson's pioneering efforts, Mass. women have continued to push the legal profession forward. Elena Kagan, former dean of the Harvard Law School, is now on the Supreme Court. Retired Supreme Justice Court chief justice Margaret Marshall wrote the decision that legalized gay marriage in the Bay State.

Their stories — and the history of women in the law — are told in the new book, "Breaking Barriers: The Unfinished Story of Women Lawyers and Judges in Massachusetts." The book's co-editors join Radio Boston to talk about the continuing struggle of women in the legal profession.


  • Barbara F. Berenson, Esq., senior administrative attorney for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and co-editor of "Breaking Barriers"
  • Hon. Margot Botsford, associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and co-editor of "Breaking Barriers"

This segment aired on December 21, 2012.