Hillman Library Exhibition Honors Anne X. Alpern, Pitt Alumnus and State’s First Female Attorney General

Issue Date: 
August 22, 2007

Materials highlighting her career and accomplishments called invaluable resource for students, scholars


Photo above: In 1961, Governor Lawrence appointed Alpern a justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, filling a vacancy that opened upon the sudden retirement of Chief Justice Charles A. Jones. In this photograph, Alpern’s daughter, Marsha, helps her mother don a Supreme Court Justice robe.
Photo below: Anne X. Alpern shakes hands with Governor David L. Lawrence, who appointed her Pennsylvania attorney general in 1959.

Anne X. Alpern—a renowned Pittsburgh jurist who paved the way for women in law—is the focus of an exhibition on the ground floor of Pitt’s Hillman Library.

The sampling of letters, papers, photographs, and political cartoons, which will be on display through Oct. 31, provide insight into Alpern’s career and personal life as well as political and public events in Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania from the 1920s to the ’70s.

Alpern was noted for her brilliance in the courtroom and her commitment to public service in city, county, and state government. Born in Russia, she moved as a child to Pittsburgh with her family. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1923 and a law degree in 1927, both at Pitt.

As the first woman to serve as city solicitor, in 1942, Alpern championed clean air as well as affordable transit and utilities. She fought against government corruption, and her sharp wit and dedication won her the admiration of public action groups. She continued to aspire to offices in county and state government that were traditionally held by men.

In 1953, she was elected a judge on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. In 1959, Pennsylvania Governor David Lawrence appointed her the first female state attorney general. In that role, she regulated milk prices and enforced food sanitation laws. She also worked to ensure better use of charitable funds. After a brief appointment to the State Supreme Court in 1961, Alpern returned to the Allegheny County common pleas court, where she stayed until retiring in 1974. She died in Pittsburgh in 1981.

The Hillman Library collection’s photographs document Alpern’s meetings with prominent figures in state and U.S. history, including Governor Lawrence, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Genevieve Blatt, the first woman elected to a statewide office in Pennsylvania (auditor general) and a Commonwealth Court judge from 1971 to 1993. A wide range of newspaper articles traces Alpern’s political decisions and public interactions.

Michael Dabrishus, assistant University librarian for archives, special collections, and preservation, said, “Our work with Ms. Alpern’s papers was supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, for which we are very grateful. That support in itself is a clear indication that the collection has significant historical merit, as our students, faculty, and other researchers will see—now that they have access to it.”