Born: December 28, 1894
Burnell, Mississippi

Died: April 25, 1988
Washington, D.C.

Burnita Shelton Matthews

Judge, U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Nominated by Harry S. Truman on January 5, 1950; Confirmed by the Senate on April 4, 1950, and received commission on April 7, 1950. Assumed senior status on 3/1/1968. Service terminated on 4/25/1988, due to death.

National University Law School, Washington, DC, LL.B., 1919
National University Law School, Washington, DC, LL.M., 1920

Portrait Ceremony
Transcript of Ceremony: February 1, 1973

Roma Christine Harlan (1912-2003) studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and under several portrait artists in Chicago. Upon graduation, she worked as the resident portrait artist for the Lake Shore Club of Chicago. Harlan painted the portrait of Justice Burnita Shelton Matthews, the first woman to serve as a federal district judge in 1973. A former president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, one of the organizations that supported the commissioning of the portrait of Judge Matthews, stated that the organization lent its support “because of their affection for this great lady whose indomitable spirit has made her the foremost feminist of her time.” In addition, her work includes portraits of Senator Edward Martin of Pennsylvania, Senator Kenneth Spicer Wherry of Nebraska, and other political and military leaders. Today, Harlan’s work is featured in private and public collections in the United States, including the U.S. Senate.

Professional Career:

Private practice, Washington, D.C., 1920-1949
Counsel, National Woman`s Party, 1921-1934
Associate editor, Women Lawyer`s Journal, 1934-1935
Professor, Washington College of Law, Washington, D.C., 1933-1939, 1942-1948

Mississippi State Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Miss.

  • Papers, ca. 1920s-1970s. 8 cubic ft.; collection includes scrapbooks, photographs, sound recordings, and
    miscellaneous printed material.

Radcliffe College Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, Cambridge, Mass.

  • Papers, 1926-1981. 4 linear ft.; finding aid; collection contains correspondence, scrapbooks, articles, and
    memorabilia pertaining to Matthews’s career.

Radcliffe College Schlesinger Library on the History of Women, Cambridge, Mass.

  • Emma Guffey Miller papers, 1887-1970; 5 linear ft.; finding aid; restricted;
  • Cornelia Bryce Pinchot papers, 1923-1926; 2 folders; finding aid; correspondence
    concerning the Conference on Civil Disabilities of Women.
  • Jane Norman Smith papers, 1913-1953; 6 linear ft.; finding aid; represented.