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Biographies of Participants

Annette Elstein

The Honorable Annette Elstein graduated from Columbia Law School in 1942. She served for twenty-nine years at the Civil Branch of The Legal Aid Society of New York City before becoming an immigration judge at the Department of Justice in 1984. Judge Elstein and her daughter, Sandra Feuerstein, are thought to be the only mother-daughter pair of judges in the United States. She has long been involved in the New York Women’s Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, and the New York County Lawyers’ Association.
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Beatrice Shainswit

A 1946 graduate of Columbia Law School, Beatrice Shainswit was a Law Review editor, Kent Scholar, and the second-ranking student for three years. She worked in private practice at Hays, Wolf, Schwabacher, Sklar & Epstein in New York for two years before working for the City of New York. Over the next two decades she assisted judges and attorney generals, authored the New York City Rent Law and Regulations, and served as first assistant and general counsel to City Council President Frank D. O’Connor. In 1971, Justice Shainswit was elected to the Civil Court of the City of New York, and, in 1977, she was elected to the Supreme Court of the State of New York. She is a former president of the Supreme Court Justices Association of the City of New York and served on the board of the New York State Association of Women Judges.
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Bella Abzug

Equally remembered for her courageous voice and her flamboyant style, Bella Abzug, a 1944 Columbia Law School graduate, has been hailed as a founding mother of feminism, a staunch supporter of gay and civil rights, and an international icon for human rights and world peace. During her years as congresswoman for the 20th District of New York in the 1970s, she became an expert on parliamentary rules and laws, using her skills to advocate programs for her district and for women in general. During her term, she served as chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Government Information and Individual Rights. In 1990, she co-founded the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, an international activist and advocacy network. She died in 1998.
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Charlotte T. Walkup

Charlotte T. Walkup graduated from Columbia Law School in 1934 and began her career as an associate solicitor in the U.S. Department of the Interior, advocating for the renewal of life and enterprise for Native Americans living on reservations. After World War II, she worked in the General Counsel’s office of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. In the 1950s, she worked in private practice. When President John F. Kennedy entered the White House, Ms. Walkup returned to government service. From 1965 to 1973, she served as assistant general counsel—the first woman to hold that position—in the U.S. Treasury Department. From 1975 until her retirement in 1986, Ms. Walkup worked with the firm of Rogers & Wells.
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Edith I. Spivack

Edith I. Spivack began working in the New York City Corporation Counsel’s Office under Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia soon after her graduation from Columbia Law School in 1932, and she has worked for every mayor since then. Ms. Spivack has worked in the Real Estate Tax Division as the attorney in charge of the certiorari; the Condemnation and Commercial Tax Divisions; and as executive assistant corporation counsel. Her negotiated tax settlements with such companies as Penn Central Railroad and Consolidated Edison brought billions of dollars into the coffers of the city. Sixty-eight years after she started, Ms. Spivack still reports to the office.
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Edith L. Fisch

In 1950, Edith L. Fisch became the first woman to receive a J.S.D. at Columbia and the first student ever to receive three degrees from Columbia Law School (including an LL.B. in 1948 and an LL.M. in 1949). Ms. Fisch was an associate with the firm of Conrad & Smith from 1951 to 1957, when she went into private practice, specializing in trusts and estates. In 1958, she formed Lond Productions, a small press that released her book Fisch on New York Evidence. As an assistant professor at New York Law School from 1963 to 1965, Ms. Fisch was the first female law professor in New York State. She served as counsel to Brodsky, Linnett & Altman from 1973 to 1975. She is also the author of Charities and Charitable Foundations and Lawyers in Industry.
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Florence Morgenstern Dreizen

Florence Morgenstern Dreizen, a 1941 graduate of Columbia Law School, began her career in government in 1963 as an assistant to Nassau County Executive Eugene Nickerson ’43. In 1970, she joined the administration of Mayor John Lindsay, where she was general counsel to the New York City Municipal Service Administration. In 1974, her expertise in construction and union matters helped her to win an appointment as New York City’s second deputy comptroller—and to become the highest-ranking female administrator in New York City history. From 1977 to 1984, Ms. Dreizen served as deputy labor commissioner for legal affairs and counsel to the New York State Labor Department. From 1984 until her retirement, she was an administrative law judge at the New York City Environmental Control Board.
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Griselda Lobell

Griselda Lobell spent the year 1935-36 at Columbia Law School as part of a program through Barnard College in which a group of political-science majors was selected to further their law-related studies. She went to work for the Indian Project of the Lands Division in the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior, conducting research for and proofreading the first edition of the American Indian Law Handbook. The book, an analysis of the United States government’s position on statutes, treaties, and court decisions involving Indian tribes, was an early and unusual civil human rights volume. During the 1950s, she worked with her husband, an attorney specializing in mutual funds. Ms. Lobell later volunteered for her local election board and contributed to integration efforts in Great Neck, New York.
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H. Alberta Colclaser

Growing up in small-town Pennsylvania, H. Alberta Colclaser had a hunch that aviation was going to become the transport of the future. Having earned a J.D. at Western Reserve University in 1936, she came to Columbia Law School to pursue her dream of studying both aviation and international law. After graduating with an LL.M. degree, Ms. Colclaser became the assistant to the legal adviser for the U.S. State Department and later was the civil air attaché for the State Department’s Aviation Division. Ms. Colclaser received the Department of State Superior Service Award in 1966. From 1972 to 1976, she served as the executive assistant to the president of the College of Wooster, her undergraduate alma mater.
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Judith P. Vladeck

A 1947 graduate of Columbia Law School, Judith P. Vladeck became a partner with Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, which specialized in union labor and civil liberties law. As one of only a few female labor lawyers, she was lead counsel for a series of lawsuits seeking access and equal opportunity for women. Widely recognized for her work in employment-discrimination law, Ms. Vladeck has represented numerous plaintiffs, in sex, race, and age bias cases in individual and class actions. An early sex-discrimination case against Western Electric, in which Ms. Vladeck represented the first female professional hired by the company, eventually became a class-action suit involving thousands of women. Her court victory resulted in widespread changes throughout the Bell telephone system.
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Marylin Bender Altschul

Marylin Bender Altschul obtained her law degree from Columbia in 1947 and soon launched a lifelong career as a journalist. She worked for the New York Journal-American and Parade before joining The New York Times, where she worked for thirty-two years. During her tenure at the Times, Ms. Altschul reported on style and business. As Sunday business editor, she transformed the section by introducing provocative profiles of people and subjects, adding pizzazz to what had been considered a dry section of the paper. She has also authored several books, including Chosen Instrument: Pan Am, Juan Trippe, the Rise and Fall of an American Entrepreneur and The Beautiful People.
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Muriel Henle Reis

An expert on the First Amendment, libel, and the Federal Communications Commission, Muriel Henle Reis graduated from Columbia Law School in 1949. After graduation she joined the American Broadcasting Company’s legal staff, and in 1958 she went to work for Metromedia, Inc., first serving as assistant general counsel and assistant secretary. In 1974, Ms. Reis became vice president of Metromedia’s WNEW-TV in 1974 and was named associate general counsel of Metromedia in 1985. In 1992, she became vice president for legal affairs and East Coast litigation, at Fox TV (which had acquired Metromedia). Ms. Reis has also worked as an on-air legal commentator.
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Nancy F. Wechsler

Nancy F. Wechsler was first in her graduating class at Columbia Law School in 1940. Early in her career, she worked with several government agencies, including the Board of Economic Welfare, the Office of Economic Stabilization, and the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, and was counsel to the President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights. She was named partner at the firm of Greenbaum, Wolf & Ernst, where her work on intellectual property and reproductive-rights law, from 1948 to 1982, brought her onto some of the seminal Supreme Court cases on these issues. She joined Deutsch, Klagsbrun & Blasband until 2001. Ms. Wechsler has served on a number of boards including the New York City Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union.
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Naomi Levine

Naomi Levine graduated in 1946 from Columbia Law School, where she was an editor of the Law Review. Having risen through the ranks as an attorney with the American Jewish Congress, she served as its national executive director from 1971 to 1978, becoming one of the first women to head a major national Jewish organization. After two decades with AJC, Ms. Levine went to work for New York University, as senior vice president for external affairs. Known as a powerful, opinionated, and highly productive leader, Ms. Levine raised more than $2 billion at NYU and was key to the university's transformation to a world-class educational institution. She retired in 2002. Ms. Levine also owned Camp Greylock, a girls' camp in the Adirondacks, which was the focus of a documentary on successful women, and she published a scholarly book entitled Politics, Religion and Love.
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Phyllis S. Jaffe

During World War II, Phyllis S. Jaffe served in the Women’s Army Corps and received special commendation for distinguished service. After graduation from Columbia Law School in 1949, she went on to practice law in New York City, specializing in legal research for other attorneys. She moved to Westchester County, New York, where she was elected to the Ossining Board of Education in 1964 and eventually became its president. In 1975, she joined Madden, Plunkett, Wetzel & Scott, of which she became a partner a year later. Her firm, which specialized in municipal and education law, has represented forty school districts in New York State. In 1993, Ms. Jaffe was honored by the Westchester Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for her advancement of human relations.
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Ruth Tachna

A 1937 graduate of Columbia Law School, Ruth Tachna was the founding attorney for Legal Aid of Westchester, New York, from 1960 to 1964. That year, she became the senior partner of Tachna & Krassner in White Plains. In 1977, Ms. Tachna taught at Northrop University School of Law in Los Angeles, where she started a law review focusing on aerospace, energy, and environmental issues. She retired from the practice of law in 1985 and teaches courses in writing memoirs in southern Florida.
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Sally Falk Moore

Soon after Columbia Law School, from which she graduated in 1945, Sally Falk Moore became a staff attorney at the Nuremberg War Trials. She returned to Columbia for her doctorate in anthropology, graduating in 1957. Dr. Moore taught at the University of Southern California for 14 years, first in law and sociology and then in the Department of Anthropology, which she established. She also taught at the University of California at Los Angeles and Yale before joining Harvard University in 1981. From 1985 to 1989, she served as dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. A groundbreaker in the field of legal anthropology, Dr. Moore was named Huxley Memorial Medallist and Lecturer for 1999, becoming the second woman to be so honored by the Royal Anthropological Institute in London in its 100-year history.
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Susanna B. Bedell

Susanna B. Bedell graduated from Columbia Law School in 1944. She practiced law from 1944 to 1951 with Shearman, Sterling & Wright in New York and then for two years at Wilmer & Broun in Washington, D.C., before beginning a private practice in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1970, she became counsel to the Poughkeepsie firm of Van DeWater & Van DeWater, with a concentration on estate planning, litigation, appellate work and domestic relations. Ms. Bedell has served on numerous boards including the Dutchess County Bar, Mid-Hudson Legal Services, and Dutchess County Mental Health Society.
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Theodora S. Zavin

In 2001, Theodora S. Zavin retired from a 50-year career with BMI, the nation’s largest music-licensing organization. After graduation from Columbia Law School in 1943, she began her career as an associate with the firm of George Z. Medalie and joined Greenbaum, Wolfe & Ernst in 1945. A lifelong supporter of copyright protection for musical artists, Ms. Zavin joined the legal department of BMI in 1952 and was named vice president of publisher relations in 1957. She became vice president of performing rights in 1965 and senior vice president and special counsel to the president in 1985. She also founded and served as president of the BMI Foundation. Ms. Zavin collaborated with fellow Columbia alumna Harriet Pilpel ’36 on Rights & Writers, a study of copyright law, in 1960, and on Your Marriage and the Law in 1952.
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Virginia Watkin

Virginia Watkin graduated from Columbia Law School in 1949. She began her career as an associate with Covington & Burling and then became associate counsel of the Massachusetts Crime Commission. In 1967, she joined Herrick, Smith, Donald, Farley & Ketchum, becoming a partner in 1973. A year later she returned to Covington & Burling, where she was a litigation partner, focusing on employment discrimination, antitrust, and bankruptcy matters, until her retirement. She has been actively involved in her alma maters and has been a member of the Society of Women Geographers.
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Other Participants

Carmel Ebb '45
Barbara Kaiser '40
Florynce R. Kennedy '51
Ida Klaus '31
G.G. Michelson '47
Constance Baker Motley '46
Hortence F. Mound '38
Sara S. Portnoy '49
Ruth Gersen Reichbart '36
Florence L. Riley '35
Leona Russell '32
Isabel Walsh '39
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