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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

State & Appellate Judges

Judge Benjamin Barr Lindsey talking to an unmarried mother, her mother and her baby, in front of house. Circa 1920. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Supplementing the papers of Supreme Court justices are the papers of many lower-court judges, especially those who played a vanguard role in the modern civil rights movement, such as:

  • Simon Ernest Sobeloff (95,000 items; 1882-1973; 1950-73)
  • J. Skelly Wright (81,200 items; 1933-87; bulk 1948-86)
  • Frank Minis Johnson (116,000 items; 1945-89; bulk 1955-86).

J. Skelly Wright's papers include letters from his former law clerk Susan Estrich (b. 1952), who later became the presidential campaign manager for Michael Dukakis and a noted legal expert on rape.

The papers of U.S. District Court judge Gerhard Alden Gesell (60,000 items; 1956-93) include materials on United States v. Vuitch (1971), an important abortion case that laid the groundwork for Roe v. Wade. Also of interest is Gesell's sentencing file (1968-92), which reflects the vast economic and demographic changes in the District of Columbia over a twenty-year period and contains valuable social data about families, crime, the judicial system, and race relations.

Joining the papers of federal judges are those of several state judges. Ben B. Lindsey (95,000 items; 1886-1954) was a judge and social reformer who helped to develop the juvenile court system in Colorado and California. Lindsey corresponded with many women reformers, and his subject files concern child labor laws, penal reform, women's suffrage, birth control, marriage, divorce, sex education and hygiene, and the Women's Protective League.

Charles Mason, justice of the Iowa territorial supreme court recorded in his diaries, 1836-82, located in the Charles Mason Remey Family Papers (1,225 items; 1778-1949; bulk 1855-1932), his work on behalf of women's rights, including his support of equal pay for equal work.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.