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JENNIE LOITMAN BARRON: PIONEER LAWYER AND JUDGE By Jilda M. Aliotta [American National Biography Online Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.] Barron, Jennie Loitman (12 Oct. 1891-28 Mar. 1969), suffragist, lawyer, and judge, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Morris Loitman, a needle trades worker and later an insurance agent, and Fannie Castelman, a needle trades worker. From her Russian immigrant parents, Jennie Loitman learned the value of education. She graduated from grammar school at age twelve and from Boston's Girls High School at age fifteen. While in high school she worked as an after school "hand" in a shoe factory. She taught Americanization classes in the evening and sold copies of William Shakespeare's works door to door to pay her way through Boston University, where she received three degrees, an A.B. in 1911, an LL.B. in 1913, and an LL.M. in 1914. While attending Boston University, Barron organized the student Women's Suffrage Association and became its first president. She was a sought-after speaker on suffrage and other issues of women's rights throughout the region. After suffrage was achieved, she became active in the League of Women Voters and began a twenty-year campaign to enable women to serve on Massachusetts juries. Upon admission to the bar in 1914, Barron entered private law practice. In 1918 she married Samuel Barron, Jr., beginning a long personal and professional partnership. The couple maintained a joint law practice until Jennie Barron was appointed to the bench. In 1925 Jennie Barron ran successfully for the Boston School Committee. Her campaign stressed her experience as a mother, a teacher, and a lawyer and urged voters to "Put a Mother on the School Committee." She became the first woman to serve on that body in over twenty years. In 1927 she was elected treasurer by her colleagues. As a member of the school committee she was best known for her campaign for adequate facilities to accommodate Boston's school-age population. She was also an advocate for women and girls, urging equal pay for female teachers, appointment of a female Yiddish-speaking attendance officer, maintaining the position of "girls' adviser," and building a modern, adequately-sized Girls High School. She surprised many observers in 1929 when she declined to run for reelection, citing the demands of her law practice. Barron's career was marked by an impressive array of firsts. In 1929 she became the first woman appointed a master in civil litigation by the Massachusetts Superior Court. During 1934-1935 she served as assistant attorney general. In this capacity she became the first woman to present a case before a Massachusetts grand jury as well as the first woman to prosecute major criminal cases. She was credited with recovering several million dollars owed the state from estates. In 1934 Barron was appointed a special, part-time justice in the district court system, where she became known for her expertise on the law. When she was appointed to the municipal court in 1937, she became the first full-time woman judge in Massachusetts. Judge Barron presided in municipal court for over twenty years, until she was elevated to the superior court in 1959, where she served until her death. During her career on the bench, Barron was known in Boston as the "judge with a heart." Her courtroom ran more slowly than those of other judges because she took time to understand the parties and their disputes. Barron referred to her court as a clinic and believed that "judges should be social engineers as well as scholars and judges" (Boston Daily Globe, 5 Feb. 1959). In criminal cases she was known for her innovative sentencing, requiring community service or counseling in conjunction with probation rather than a jail sentence. In civil cases, she was known for facilitating settlements. "To me, the most satisfying disposition of a case is to see people understand each other and iron out their difficulties mutually," she told one interviewer (Boston Sunday Globe, 14 Dec. 1947). Her special interests on the bench were domestic relations and juvenile delinquency. In 1955 Barron was the only woman among the seventeen-member U.S. delegation to the first United Nations Conference on Crime. At the conference she argued that juvenile delinquency resulted from a lack of the three A's--affection, approval, and acceptance--and advocated better-staffed juvenile courts and programs to educate young people for their roles as parents. Throughout her life Barron saw her family as central. She had three daughters and seven grandchildren. Upon being named National Mother of the Year in 1959, she remarked, "All the rest in life are 'fringe benefits,' in relation to family, children and grandchildren" (Providence Evening Bulletin, 5 May 1959). She frequently said that her most important degree was the one she received from her husband, Mrs., and credited her success to her cooperative husband. In addition to her professional endeavors, Barron was active in several civic and philanthropic organizations, including American Jewish Congress, Beth Israel Hospital Women's Auxiliary, Hadassah, Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers, and the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Her hobbies included public speaking and travel. The Barrons visited all five continents, often serving as informal goodwill ambassadors for the United States. Barron was a path breaker in many respects. When she graduated from law school, women could neither vote nor serve on juries. She demonstrated by her accomplishments as well as by her words that civic life would be enriched by women's contributions. At the same time she reminded men and women that their family responsibilities were primary. She seemed to view her role as a judge as an extension of her maternal role, teaching appropriate behavior to those who for some reason failed to learn it earlier in life. She died in Boston. Bibliography Barron's papers are at the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe College and include some correspondence; newspaper clippings; texts of some of her speeches; and a copy of the League of Women Voters pamphlet, "Jury Service for Women," that she wrote. The Communications Library at Boston University has newspaper clipping files. An article on Barron by Polly Welts Kaufman in Notable American Women of the Modern Period (1980) contains information about Barron's parents and early life not available elsewhere. See also "Mother Is a Judge," National Business Woman, Aug. 1959, pp. 4-5, 29. An obituary is in the Boston Globe, 28 Mar. 1969. Jilda M. Aliotta