I’ll be doing two of these for the Weekends. – TJ
Juanita Kidd Stout
First Black Woman on a State Supreme Court
Juanita Kidd Stout was one of America’s most respected judges. Her career has been marked by a series of unprecedented accomplishments including her appointment in 1988 as the first black woman to serve on a state supreme court.
Juanita Kidd was born on March 7, 1919 in Wewoka, Oklahoma. She was the only child of Henry Maynard Kidd and Mary Alice Chandler Kidd, both schoolteachers. After graduating from grade school and high school at the top of her class, she left Oklahoma to attend college.
Juanita studied for two years at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, and then transferred to the University of Iowa in iowa City where she received a bachelor of arts degree in music in 1939.
After teaching for three years, Stout moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a secretary for the prominent law firm of Houston, Houston and Hastie. She was inspired by the law work of Charles Hamilton Houston and was inspired to follow her childhood dream to become a lawyer.
Stout began her legal training at Howard University in Washington, D.C., but transferred to Indiana University in Bloomington, where her husband was working on his doctorate. At Indiana she earned a doctor of jurisprudence in 1948 and a master of law degree, specilizing in legislation, in 1954.
After passing the Pennsylvania Bar examination in 1954, she went into private practice with Mabel G. Turner, who later became a United States attorney. In 1956 Stout joined the Philadelphia district attorney’s office and three years later she became head of Appeals, Pardons and Parole Division.
Stout won a reputation among her peers for the clarity of her legal opinions. After serving on the municipal (county court and the Philadelphia Court of Common Please, Julia Kidd Stout was appointed by Governor Robert P. Casey as a justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania thus making her the first African-American woman to serve on the highest appellate court of any state. Her appointment was met with great approval by the legal community.
In 1989 Stout was forced to step down from the high court on reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. She then retuerned to the Phildadelphia Court of Common Pleas as a senior judge in the homicide division.
Juanita Kidd Stout died on August 21, 1998.
Maria W. Stewart
America’s First Black Woman Political Writer
When Maria W. Stewart’s early works, including her famous public lectures, were published in the early 1830’s, she became the first African-American woman to write on political issues. As such, she provided an influential foundation for black female activism as well as literary tradition.
Frances Maria Miller was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1803. Virtually nothing is known about her parents except that they were surnamed Miller and they were free. When Maria was five years old, she was left an orphan, and for the next ten years she lived with a clergyman’s family. There she learned to read. Between the ages of fifteen and twenty she continued her education at Sabbath schools and worked as a domestic servant.
Maria then moved to Boston where she married in 1826.
Maria Stewart experienced a religious awakening after the death of her husband (in 1829) that inspired her on a quest for political freedom. Stewart laid out her ideas in Religion and the Pure Principles of Morality, the Sure Foundation on Which We Must Build, published as a twelve page pamphlet in 1831 by William Lloyd Garrison and Isaac Knapp, founders of the Boston weekly abolitionist paper the Liberator. In this militant essay she exhorted African Americans to demand their human rights and warned whites that blacks were impatient for freedom.
Martha W. Stewart died in Washington, D.C., on December 17,1879. The first black woman to speak and write publicly on substantive political issues, she holds a special place in African -American history. Her style influenced later black public speakers such as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. She summed up her life’s work in her own powerful words: “Daughters of Africa, Awake! Arise! Distinguish yourselves.”