An Evening with Judge Florence Allen

The life of Judge Florence Allen, first female judge elected to a state supreme court and Ashtabula County resident, was the topic for Kent State Ashtabula’s first Faculty Lecture Series event of the fall semester (2016). The event was held on Monday, September 12th at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Robert S. Morrison Health & Science Building on the Ashtabula Campus. The event was free and open to the public.

The lecture, possible through support from the Ashtabula County Bar Association, included an overview of Judge Allen’s life, photos that have been preserved through digitization by the Kent State Ashtabula library, and remarks from members of Judge Allen’s family. The event concluded with the unveiling of original artwork created by Dan Bridy to commemorate the life of Judge Allen. Richard Dana, J.D. of the Ashtabula County Bar Association has been a driving force in the research on Judge Allen’s life and has worked to preserve the historical artifacts that help tell the story of her accomplishments.

Early Life

Born in 1884, Allen graduated with honors from Western Reserve University in 1904 with a degree in music. She worked as a music critic for the Cleveland Plain Dealer from 1906 to 1909 while pursuing her graduate degree in political science and constitutional law. In 1913, she earned her law degree from New York University School of Law and returned to the Cleveland area.

Legal Career

After practicing law for 9 years, Allen was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1922 and became the first woman elected to a state supreme court. President Roosevelt appointed Allen to the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in 1934, and she became the first woman judge in a federal court. She eventually became chief judge of the court, until her retirement in 1959.

Lasting Impact

Throughout her career, Judge Allen worked for women’s rights and served as a role model for women who wanted to enter the field of law. Her contributions to numerous women’s organizations and improvements in women’s status throughout the twentieth century have been recognized through dozens of honorary degrees and induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame.

Source: Kent State University at Ashtabula press release

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