Until 1928, when Genevieve Cline joined the U.S. Customs Court, all Article III judges were male. Florence Allen became the first female federal appellate judge when she was appointed to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1934. The number of female federal judges increased slowly from that point until the late 1970s, with a general trend towards more rapid growth since that time. This trend likely reflects the attempts of several recent presidents to appoint a higher proportion of female judges, along with women’s increasing presence in the legal profession as a whole since the mid-twentieth century.
The graphs below illustrate this trend. The first shows the gender distribution of judges at the time of their initial appointment from 1920-2017. The second chart shows the proportion of initial judicial commissions issued to men and women in individual years. You can use the slide control next to the chart to move between years. A final chart shows the sitting members of the judiciary by gender from 1789 to 2017.