... 1894, Burnita Shelton Matthews (right) was born near Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Sent to a conservatory so that she could learn to be a music teacher, she soon switched to the law, enrolling in 1917 in what's now the George Washington University Law School. Though she passed the D.C. bar exam in 1920, the district's bar association refused her application for membership. She responded helped to founding the Woman's Bar Association of the District of Columbia and the National Association of Women Lawyers and helping to edit the Women Lawyers Journal. She taught several years at Washington College of Law, now affiliated with American University. Founder of an all-woman law firm in the 1930s, she was counsel to the pro-suffrage National Woman's Party, the property of which was condemned to build the U.S. Supreme Court. "Matthews successfully obtained the largest condemnation settlement awarded by the U.S. government at the time, $299,200." According to the website for her papers, Shelton Matthews
was active in drafting legislation to secure equal rights for women, including a law allowing women to serve on juries, laws eliminating preferences for males in inheritance, laws requiring equal pay for teachers regardless of sex, and, in 1931 and 1934, amendments to the nationality laws of the United States extending to women citizenship rights previously accorded only to men.
In 1950, having been appointed by President Harry S. Truman, Shelton Matthews became the 1st woman U.S. District Judge. (photo credit) She served in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Shelton Matthews took senior status in 1968, and served in that capacity till her death in 1988.