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Dorothy Kenyon

(1888–1972) Dorothy was a New York attorney, judge, feminist and political activist who worked and fought in support of civil liberties. She was a charismatic speaker and she regularly travelled throughout the U.S. lecturing about civil liberties. During the era of McCarthyite persecution, she was falsely accused of being affiliated with 28 communist front organizations.

Dorothy graduated from Horace Mann School in 1904, and studied economics and history at Smith College, graduating in 1908. In reflection Dorothy felt that she "misspent" the years 1908 to 1913 as a "social butterfly." After spending a year in Mexico and observing poverty and injustice at a close range, she decided to focus on social activism. She graduated from New York University School of Law in 1917, one of just a handful of U.S. law schools enlightened enough to enroll women.

Dorothy gained national prominence as a feminist activist in 1938 when she was named the U.S. representative to the League of Nations Committee for the Study of the Status of Women, a group of seven lawyers charged with studying women's legal status internationally.

Although World War II interrupted the committee's work and it was never completed, Dorothy resumed her commitment to improving women's status around the world through her work as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women from 1946–1950.

Dorothy had lengthy and intense romantic relationships with various men throughout her adult life. Fiercely independent, she made a conscious decision not to marry. She participated in various aspects of President Johnson's War on Poverty and at age 80, she worked tirelessly and almost single-handedly to establish legal services for the poor on the Lower West Side of Manhattan.

A 2018 article in The Washington Post ran with the headline "Ruth Ruth Bader Ginsburg was inspired by a forgotten female trailblazer"; referring to Dorothy Kenyon.


Woodlawn Cemetery

4199 Webster Avenue, Bronx, NY 10470

Bronx County

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