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CCC Honors Lifelong Champion of Children’s Rights

It could not have been more fitting to celebrate Women’s History Month with our 2014 Justine Wise Polier Symposium. In honor of our co-founder and true lifelong champion of children’s rights, our event featured a lively reading of “The Grain of the Wood,” a one-act play about the life of Justine Wise Polier. The piece is a collaborative project between Debra Bradley Ruder, Justine Wise Polier’s granddaughter and daughter of CCC Board Member Trudy Festinger, and Ellen W. Kaplan of Smith College.

Ellen Kaplan, Debra Ruder and Trudy Festinger (left to right)

Polier was the first woman in New York State to be appointed justice of New York City’s Domestic Relations Court. Throughout an impressive 38 years on the bench, “she pioneered an approach to juvenile justice that emphasized prevention and rehabilitation and popularized the notion of ‘best interest of the child.’” She used her position of judge as an opportunity to take a leading role in fighting both racial and religious injustice, especially within the systems of education and adoption.

Called “The Grain of the Wood” for Justine’s ability to find beauty in the gnarled driftwood she loved to carve, the play brings Polier’s work to life through her own stories shared with her granddaughter and great-granddaughter about co-founding the Wiltwyck school for boys in the 1930s and efforts to try to rescue 20,000 German refugee children under Hilter with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Polier is widely remembered as a passionate, informed and committed advocate for the well-being of vulnerable children, which has been at the core of CCC’s mission since we were founded in 1944.

The Presidential Proclamation for Women’s History Month this year states, “As we honor the many women who have shaped our history, let us also celebrate those who make progress in our time.” Justine Wise Polier, one of CCC’s own, has done both. We continue to be inspired by her tireless efforts in our advocacy work to ensure that every child is healthy, housed, educated and safe.

‘Justine Wise Polier: A “Fighting Judge” Takes the Stage’ essay by Debra Ruder

Special thanks to all those at Kenworthy-Swift and Skadden, Arps, Meagher, Slate & Flom for their support in sponsoring and hosting this event.

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