March 1, 2024
six women smiling on pink background

Rutgers Law joins the nation in celebrating Women's History Month every March. Our law school proudly honors its rich history of educating and empowering women who have played pivotal roles in transforming the legal industry and beyond. And we're not done. This academic year, Rutgers Law welcomed the highest total of women to law school in its history. Here's just a few of our alumni who have paved the way.

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Paula Laddey '11 earned her law degree from Rutgers Law School in Newark in 1911 and was the second woman lawyer admitted to practice in New Jersey. She represented the New Jersey Legal Aid Society at a national conference in 1916, wrote about workers' compensation laws for the Women's Lawyers' Journal, and spoke in favor of women serving on juries. In 1924, she spoke before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on the Permanent Court of International Justice. Ms. Laddey had a longtime law practice in New Jersey with her law partner and fellow suffragist Vernona Beatrice Henry. 

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Hazel O'Leary '66 was the first woman and first African American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Energy. She also served as the 14th president of her alma mater, Fisk University, a historically Black college. She graduated from Rutgers Law School in Newark with an LLB in 1966. Early in her legal career, Ms. O'Leary worked as a prosecutor in New Jersey and later became an assistant attorney general for the state. 

Patricia Santelle '85 is chair emeritus of Philadelphia-based White and Williams. When she took the top position in 2013, she became the first woman to lead a major law firm in Philadelphia. After stepping down in 2020, the firm had grown to more than 200 attorneys with 10 offices in six states. She is a founding co-chair of the Rutgers Law Alumnae Network in Camden. Ms. Santelle and fellow founding Co-Chair Debra Rosen are sponsoring the Judicial Reception honoring Rutgers Law alumnae on March 22. 

Linda Wharton '81,

Linda J. Wharton is Professor Emerita of Political Science at Stockton University, where she taught Constitutional Law, Women and the Law, Civil Liberties, Advanced Constitutional Litigation, and Gender and Political Action. Professor Wharton’s scholarly research and writing focuses on issues of state and federal constitutional law with a special concentration in the law of gender discrimination. Her publications include: Preserving Roe v. Wade…When You Win Only Half the Loaf, 24 Stanford Law & Policy Review, 143 (2013); Reflections on Planned Parenthood v. Casey: Preserving Roe’s Core, (with Susan Frietsche and Kathryn Kolbert) 18 Yale Journal of Law & Feminism 317 (Winter 2007); and State Equal Rights Amendments Revisited: Evaluating their Effectiveness in Advancing Protection against Sex Discrimination, 36 Rutgers Law Journal 1201 (2006). At Stockton she served as the Pre-Law Advisor, coordinated the University’s annual Constitution Day events and participated in its Political Engagement Project, a joint initiative of Stockton and the AASCU’s American Democracy Project.

From 1989 until 1997, she served as the Managing Attorney of the Women’s Law Project, a public interest law firm located in Philadelphia, where she specialized in litigation and law reform relating to gender discrimination. She served as lead co-counsel in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a challenge to Pennsylvania’s restrictive abortion law, which was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1992. She also serves as a consultant on issues of gender equity in education and constitutional protection for women’s rights. She serves on the ERA Coalition’s Legal Task Force and was featured in a documentary on the Equal Rights Amendment, Equal Means Equal. She has taught courses in sex discrimination law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and Rutgers School of Law.

Linda Wharton graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a B.A. in 1977 and from Rutgers Law School with a J.D. in 1981. She was a law clerk to the Hon. Dolores K. Sloviter, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and an associate with the Dechert law firm in Philadelphia. She is the former Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Women’s History Project.

More Notable Alumni
Kimberly Banks MacKay '95, first woman and first African American to serve as the Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary of West Pharmaceutical Services
Hon. Renée Marie Bumb '87, Chief U.S. District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

Rutgers Law Media Contact:
Shanida Carter

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