In honor of International Women’s Day 2012, marking the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world, we would like to recognize a few of the many historical achievements of the past and present female judges of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
History was made when, in 1934, Judge Florence Allen was appointed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. With that appointment, Judge Allen became the first female judge on any United States Court of Appeals. No stranger to firsts, prior to joining the Sixth Circuit, Judge Allen was the first female elected to the Ohio Supreme Court (1922). In that position, she has been credited as the first woman in the world to sit on a court of last resort.
The Court’s adjustment to the appointment was not easy and Judge Allen often ate lunch alone, heating her lunch on a hotplate while her male colleagues dined together at a restaurant that did not permit women. She bought a marble-top table so the hotplate would not burn the table, which table is storied to be passed down to the most senior female judge on the Sixth Circuit. Currently that honor would go to Senior Judge Cornelia Kennedy who also is a female pioneer in her own right. Judge Kennedy is the first woman to have served as a chief judge of any United States District Court.
Boundaries continue to be broken in the Sixth Circuit as Judge Bernice Bouie Donald recently became the first African-American woman to serve on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. No newcomer to breaking boundaries, Judge Donald was also the first African-American woman elected as a judge in Tennessee, the first appointed as a federal bankruptcy judge in the nation and the first confirmed as a United States district judge in Tennessee.