Judge of Domestic Relations Court of the City of New York.
Student of social and economic conditions.
Able to discern misfortune and exploitation from crime and sin.
Has translated her knowledge and understanding into useful public service.
Gentleness personified with the weak and unhappy.
Stern and unrelenting with the wicked and wrongdoer.
Her talents and good heart are devoted entirely to the public good.
-F. La Guardia
Jane Bolin, the first black woman in the United States to be appointed to a judgeship, was only thirty-one years old when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia chose her, in 1939, for a ten-year term on the Domestic Relations Court of the City of New York.
A Wellesley College graduate, Bolin was also the first black woman to receive a law degree from Yale University. She began her career as an attorney in her family's law firm in Poughkeepsie and, after her marriage in 1933 to Ralph E. Mizelle, practiced law with him under her maiden name. A Republican, Bolin ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the New York State Assembly in 1936. The following spring she was appointed to the Corporation Counsel's office in New York City. Two years later, at the New York World's Fair, La Guardia swore her in as a judge.
A dedicated activist for civil and children's rights and education, Bolin served on numerous boards, including those of Wiltwyck School for Boys, Dalton School, the Child Welfare League of America, New Lincoln School, United Neighborhood Houses, Neighborhood Children's Center, and the local and national NAACP. She also became a member of the Committee on Children of New York City, the Scholarship and Service Fund for Negro Students, the Urban League of Greater New York, and the Committee Against Discrimination in Housing. In January of 1944, Betsy Graves Reyneau traveled to New York to paint Bolin's portrait.
Judge Jane Bolin
Betsey Graves Reyneau
Oil on canvas, c.1943-44
National Portrait Gallery