Boston University School of Law


Breaking Barriers: The Unfinished Story of Women Lawyers and Judges in Massachusetts

New book showcases BU Law’s prominent role in the history of women and law in Mass.

The newly published book Breaking Barriers highlights the struggle and achievements of Massachusetts women in the legal profession. Playing a prominent role in the narrative, BU Law is represented by over 20 alumnae and faculty whose stories contribute to the “unfinished story” of women lawyers and judges in the Commonwealth, as told through historical accounts and personal interviews.

As the first law school to begin admitting women in 1872, BU Law has a long and rich history in the education of female lawyers in Massachusetts. Graduates include the first two women to be admitted to the bar, the first woman to argue before a jury, and the first two women to be become judges.

Prominently featured throughout the book are two distinguished members of the BU Law community: Dean Maureen O’Rourke and Professor Tamar Frankel.

After working at the IBM Corporation on issues in software licensing, Dean O’Rourke joined the BU Law faculty in 1993, and was among the first scholars to consider the status of hyperlinking on the Internet under copyright law. She states in Breaking Barriers that her passions lie in legal education, the importance of the Constitution and secured transactions, particularly the Uniform Commercial Code. In addition, O’Rourke was appointed the first female dean of BU Law in 2006. However, as she notes in the book, “I don’t think of myself as a woman dean. I just think of myself as the dean.”

breaking barriersFrankel, who was born and attended law school in Israel, was the first woman to be appointed to a tenure-track position and the first woman to receive tenure at BU Law. In Breaking Barriers, she discusses her career, which has spanned three continents, and the cultural differences the working mother faces from Israel to America. She currently teaches in the areas of fiduciary law, corporate governance and mutual funds. Scholars and the press have commended her most recently published book, The Ponzi Scheme Puzzle: A History and Analysis of Con Artists and Victims, as an exceptional work of scholarship on financial criminals involved in Ponzi schemes and their victims.

Also featured are Sandra Lynch (’71), the first woman to serve as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, as well as Martha Coakley (’79), Massachusetts’ first female attorney general.

Acknowledging BU’s continued commitment to inclusion and equal opportunity for women, Gina Walcott (’93) notes in the book, “I have always been acutely aware that any progress made by me in the educational and professional arenas resulted, in part, from the sacrifices of pioneering women and people of color who paved the way for others like me.”

Breaking Barriers: The Unfinished Story of Women Lawyers and Judges in Massachusetts is available from the publisher, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education.

>> See BU Law's complete historical timeline


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