Main content

1979: The Year Women Changed the Judiciary

In 1979, the number of women serving as federal judges more than doubled. In this series, learn more about the trailblazers who reshaped the Judiciary. 

Mary Murphy Schroeder: She Broke Barriers From the Start

Judge Mary Schroeder is sworn in as a U.S. judge.

Published onAugust 21, 2019

In 1979, Mary Murphy Schroeder joined a historic class of women judges who transformed the federal Judiciary, but her law career nearly ended before it began. The night before her first final law exam at the University of Chicago, Schroeder collapsed and was hospitalized with a severe kidney infection.

40 Years Later, Pioneering Women Judges Savor Place in History

Image: In 1980, President Jimmy Carter met with members of the new National Association of Women Judges, many of whom he had appointed to the federal bench.

Published onAugust 14, 2019

In 1979, 23 women were appointed to the federal bench—more than doubling the number of women appointed to life-tenured judgeships in the previous 190 year history of the United States. The doors they opened never swung shut again. Forty years later, women make up one-third of the courts’ full-time, active Article III judges.