School of Law displays ‘Women in Black: Portraits of Female Judges of Connecticut’

November 01, 2023

A group of women stand in front of a School of Law exhibit of women judges in Connecticut

Members of the state’s legal community gathered at Quinnipiac School of Law to celebrate “Women in Black: Portraits of Female Judges of Connecticut,” a striking visual statement on the presence of women on the state and federal bench.

The historic portrait collection is now on permanent display on the walls of the student lounge above the School of Law Library. Over 20 years in the making, done in black and white film and digital color, the exhibit is part of the History of Connecticut Women in the Legal Profession project sponsored by the Connecticut Bar Foundation.

The extensive series features portraits of past and present trailblazers, thought leaders and public servants comprising Connecticut’s remarkable women judges, said Judge Victoria Woodin Chavey, board president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation.

School of Law Dean Jennifer Brown welcomed many honored guests among the celebratory crowd during an evening reception hosted by Quinnipiac’s School of Law at the North Haven Campus on October 25.

“It is particularly exciting for me tonight to have the legal community gathered in our building to see this and to enjoy it with us,” said Brown. “It is just such a thrill for us to have these portraits on our walls, and to be able to display the incredible legacy and the talent of women judges in the state of Connecticut.”

Many of the judges in the exhibit are Quinnipiac School of Law alumnae faculty members or members of the Dean’s Advisory Board, including Judge Angela C. Robinson (Ret.).

Robinson, a Waring and Carmen Partridge Faculty Fellow at Quinnipiac’s School of Law, said she was honored to be among the women justices in the series and is fortunate to frequent the exhibit as a visiting professor.

“I don’t think I ever want to leave because I have been visiting for quite some time and it has been wonderful to be here,” said Robinson. “I have found a new community that is welcoming and supportive and believes in training the whole lawyer to represent the whole client.”

When appointed in 1998, Robinson said she was welcomed by the “sisterhood” of Connecticut’s women judges. Noting there were only three Black women judges in the state at the time, Robinson remarked on the growing numbers of Black, Asian, Latina and Native American women who have joined the bench in the years since.

“The breadth and the depth of the skills and talents that the women judges bring is amazing,” said Robinson. “Although a picture paints a thousand words, in my tradition growing up in the Baptist church, we said, ‘Let my deeds speak for me.’ And the deeds of all the women judges in Connecticut have spoken volumes, not only in their portraits but in how we have indelibly changed the bench for the better and demonstrated that diversity really makes us stronger.”

Chavey thanked Quinnipiac School of Law and Brown for providing the extraordinary exhibit space. She said the portrait reception was a night to be inspired by the women judges and legal giants featured in the photographs.

“This portrait series is an inspiration,” said Chavey. “It is a commemoration of where we’ve been, but it’s also looking to the future.”

Chavey will be among the next group of judges to be photographed for the series which represents hundreds of hours of work contributed by project photographer and attorney Isabel Chenoweth.

Collaborating and conversing with the judges helped balance each portrait to reveal the person whom the robe conceals, said Chenoweth.

“I appreciated everybody’s willingness to look for things that would make the portraits come alive, and I marveled at how different everybody’s journey has been to the bench,” said Chenoweth.

Chenoweth said it has been her privilege to work with all of the female judges in the exhibit, and she’s thankful to play a small role in documenting the important history of the changes in the court in Connecticut.

“Women, over these past 20 years, have not always had a narrow, straight path,” said Chenoweth. “It’s been circuitous and full of challenges and obstacles, and I’m not sure that generations coming through law school now will ever fully appreciate how difficult the road has been.”

Brown said each of the jurists commemorated by the exhibit will continue to inspire the Quinnipiac School of Law community and its students.

“I think they set such a great example,” said Brown. “It’s very inspiring for our students to see these judges on our walls.”


Stay in the Loop

Sign Up Now