Ruth Abrams, Judge Who Broke a Glass Ceiling Installed in 1692, Dies at 88

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Ms. Abrams majored in history and government at Radcliffe, graduating in 1953. She graduated from law school in 1956.

Samuel Abrams, her father, was the first Harvard Law graduate (Class of 1926) to have both a daughter and a son graduate from the law school as well.

After working for him, Ms. Abrams joined the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office in 1961. She was given a desk in a hallway but, impressing her bosses, had her own office within three months.

She viewed her time in the D.A.’s office as the most fun of her career. “It was like being in a grade B movie every day,” she said in the Stanford oral history, citing the characters (litigants, police officers, court personnel) she encountered and the camaraderie among her colleagues. Once she became a judge, she said, the work became more isolating.

Her next job was as chief of the appellate section in the state attorney general’s office in 1969. By then, she had developed a reputation for keen analytical skills and legal expertise, and the judges on the Supreme Judicial Court created a position for her as their special counsel, in which she prepared summaries of cases for them.

In 1972, Gov. Francis Sargent, a Republican, appointed her to the Massachusetts Superior Court, the second woman to rise to that bench. Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, a Democrat, appointed her to the Supreme Judicial Court five years later.

Justice Abrams wrote more than 500 opinions on the state’s high court, served on 10 special legal and bar committees and recruited women into the courthouse — to work as law clerks and court reporters and in other jobs — and onto the bench.


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