A Female Frontrunner in the Legal Profession

In January 1963, Bay City’s first female judge, Marian Manary Jankens (1913-1968), was sworn in to potentially present cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. Here, Manary Jankens (second from left) poses on Supreme Court building steps with (left to right) her husband, Austin Jankens; her sister, Viola Manary Drescher; and her niece, Z. Marian Drescher.

In January 1963, Bay City’s first female judge, Marian Manary Jankens (1913-1968), was sworn in to potentially present cases at the U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. Here, Manary Jankens (second from left) poses on Supreme Court building steps with (left to right) her husband, Austin Jankens; her sister, Viola Manary Drescher; and her niece, Z. Marian Drescher.

The U.S. Supreme Court, third coequal branch of the federal government, received this (pictured) building—the first of its own—in 1935, its 146th year in existence.

Being sworn in at the U.S. Supreme Court is a high honor awarded to applicants who meet key criteria, including being “admitted to practice in the highest court of a State, Commonwealth, Territory or Possession, or the District of Columbia for a period of at least three years immediately before the date of application.”

When Manary Jankens graduated from University of Michigan Law School in 1939, America was recovering from the Great Depression and nearing entry into World War II. Relatively few women were practicing law. Manary Jankens was one of only two females in her law school graduating class of 158. She joined her father, Otto Manary, Sr. (d. 1941), in private law practice in Bay City. Robert R. Bell, author of The Philadelphia Lawyer (1992), writes, “By 1940 there were 4,447 women lawyers in the United States, [yet] they made up only 2.4 percent of the total legal profession.”

Manary Jankens and Austin had two children, Sharon and Jeffrey. Manary Jankens’s legal career in Bay City included assistant prosecutor (1943-44), chief deputy prosecutor (1950-56), and municipal court judge (1956-1963). After 1963, she resumed private practice and taught business law at the then-Northwood Institute in Midland. Photo courtesy of Marian Manary Jankens’s family. 

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