Women’s History Month
March 2021


The Flaschner Judicial Institute celebrates a group of trailblazing women who have served the Commonwealth as Judges.

The first women to serve as judges in Massachusetts were Emma Fall Schofield (Malden District Court) and Sadie Lipner Shulman (Dorchester District Court) who were appointed in 1930 by Governor Frank G. Allen. In 1959, Jennie Loitman Barron became the first woman appointed to the Superior Court. Judge Barron had previously served as a judge on the Municipal Court in Boston. Margaret Burnham was the first African-American woman appointed as a judge in Massachusetts when she joined the bench of the Boston Municipal Court in 1977. The following year, 1978, two other pioneering women were appointed to appellate courts in Massachusetts: Charlotte Anne Perretta was the first women appointed to the Appeals Court and Ruth Abrams, who previously served as a judge of the Superior Court, was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Judicial Court. Another milestone occurred in 1999, when Margaret H. Marshall became the 24th chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court. More recently, in 2013, Geraldine Hines, who served as a judge of the Superior Court and as a justice of the Appeals Court, became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court. And, of course, in 2020, Justice Kimberly Budd became the first African-American Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court.

There are many other pioneering women who have served or are serving as judges in Massachusetts. Our effort to compile a complete list of women “firsts” is below. Every one of these women judges has made multiple contributions to the legal system and to the well-being of the Commonwealth worthy of recognition in addition to their service as jurists. If, through inadvertence, we have omitted to include anyone, we hope you will contact us.

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Established in 1978, the Flaschner Judicial Institute seeks to improve the administration of justice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts by promoting the highest possible standards of judicial professionalism through judicial education.

Founded in honor of a late Chief Justice of the District Court, the Flaschner Judicial Institute provides a means by which new and experienced judges can continue to grow both professionally and academically throughout their judicial careers.

In collaboration with local, state, and national organizations, educational programs are offered to state and federal judges in Massachusetts in the following key program areas: Substantive and Procedural Law, Recognizing Bias and Achieving Fairness, Judicial Ethics, Skills Training, and Bench/Bar Relations. In addition, the Flaschner Judicial Institute also develops and distributes easy-to-use manuals, guides, and benchbooks.