Phyllis S. Jaffe ’49
December 22, 2008
Phyllis S. Jaffe ’49 was an early practitioner of education labor law and one of the first female graduates of Columbia Law School. She passed away on December 22, 2008, at the
age of 83.
Jaffe served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and received special commendation for her distinguished service. After the war, she realized she wanted to
pursue her law degree. “I went to see . . . the dean of the graduate women at Columbia in 1946,” Jaffe recalled in an oral history honoring the first women admitted to
Columbia Law School. “I really wanted to go to law school because maybe I could have some effect in the world.” The dean heartily agreed.
Following her Law School graduation, Jaffe worked for a small law office in the Bronx before taking several years off to raise her three sons. From 1966 to 1969, she served as president of the Ossining Board of Education. During her tenure, New York enacted the Taylor Law, which required negotiations with public employee unions and thrust Jaffe into talks between the Board of Education and school district workers. That experience inspired her to specialize in education law and public-sector labor law for the next 33 years, during which she represented 35 school districts in four counties, as well as two colleges. “I argued
a case in the Appellate Division, Second Department, near the end of 1999,” Jaffe recalled in the oral history. “There were two women judges on the bench, and most of the attorneys handling criminal matters in New York City, for the district attorney in Brooklyn, were women. There was just such a change. . . . I couldn’t believe it.”
Jaffe retired from the practice of law in 2002. She is survived by her three sons and four grandchildren.