In 1939, Bolin became the country’s first African- American woman judge with her appointment to the New York City Domestic Relations Court. Her appointment made headlines across the country and globe.
Raised in Poughkeepsie, Bolin grew up reading the law books in the library of her father, Dutchess County’s first black attorney. In 1928, Bolin graduated as one of the top 20 students in her class from Wellesley College, where she was one of the school’s first two black students. In 1931, Bolin became the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School.
Unable to get a position at local law firms, Bolin practiced law with her husband. In 1937, she became the first black woman to serve as a New York City Assistant Corporation Counsel.
Bolin served for 40 years as a Family Court judge and was reappointed by three different mayors. She is credited with removing court policies that discriminated against children on account of their race and ethnicity.