Acknowledging Genevieve R. Cline

In March, we celebrated Women’s History Month. In our social media posts, we reminded everyone of the accomplishments of an Ohioan named Genevieve R. Cline. A limited number of characters does not do her justice, so this blog will hopefully help others learn more.

Judge Cline was born in Warren, Ohio. She attended Oberlin College and ultimately graduated from Baldwin-Wallace College with her law degree in 1921. From there, her career was notable and included several firsts. Judge Cline achieved the following:

  • 1922: Cline became the first woman to serve as an appraiser of merchandise for the US Custom Service
  • 1928: Cline became the first woman to be appointed a judge on the US Customs Court, where she served for the next 25 years.
  • 1928: Cline’s appointment to the US Customs Court made her the first American woman ever appointed to the federal bench.

On March 1, 1953, Judge Cline retired and was succeeded by another woman, Judge Mary H. Donlon. Judge Cline died on October 25, 1959, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Other notable female judges include Florence Allen (named to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934), Burnita Shelton Matthews (appointed to the US District Court for the District of Columbia by President Truman in 1949), the aforementioned Mary Donlon (nominated by President Eisenhower in 1955), and Sarah Tilghman Hughes (appointed to the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas by President Kennedy in 1961).

Four women have served on the US Supreme Court, including former Justices Sandra Day O’Connor (1981-2006) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993-2020) as well as current Justices Sonia Sotomayer (2009-present), Elena Kagan (2010- present), and Amy Coney Barrett (2020- present). Once the recently confirmed Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson assumes her position, she will become the first African American woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

Today, approximately one-third of all active Article III federal judges are women. Former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “If the first women judges were here today, they would rejoice at this achievement. Their examples made it less difficult for the rest of us to gain appointment or election to the judiciary.”

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