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Benchmarks: Journal of the New York State Unified Court System

Summer 2006


Q) Who was the first woman to hold judicial office in the United States?

A) Esther Hobart Morris was born in Tioga County, N.Y., on Aug. 8, 1814, but gained fame by becoming a justice in Wyoming. Early on she showed an interest in fighting for the rights of women and slaves. In 1869, she moved to South Pass City, Wyo., with her second husband and young son. That same year, the territory held its first legislative session and William H. Bright introduced a women’s suffrage bill that was signed into law, granting women the right to vote in all public elections, the right to own property, the right to serve on juries and equal pay as teachers. The following year, Wyoming appointed three women to serve as justices of the peace. Morris was the only one to actually serve, becoming the first woman to hold a judicial position in the nation.

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