Mary Philbrook was the first female lawyer admitted to the New Jersey state bar in 1895. She was the first woman to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1906 and was the state’s first female probation officer in 1902, helping organize Newark’s juvenile court system.
Philbrook was born in 1872 in Jersey City. She studied stenography in business school and worked in law offices.
Hoboken’s corporation counsel encouraged her to become a lawyer, but the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected Philbrook's petition in 1894.
Philbrook successfully lobbied the legislature, which in 1895 passed a law allowing women to become lawyers. Philbrook was finally admitted to the bar and began practicing law in Jersey City.
After moving her practice to Newark in 1902, Philbrook organized the first legal assistance organization. She also became active in organizations that advocated judicial and penal reform. Her work resulted in passage of the Mann Act, which prohibited the importation of immigrant women for prostitution.
As a lobbyist, Philbrook worked to secure changes in the language of the New Jersey state constitution that have been cited by the state Supreme Court as grounds for prohibiting sex discrimination.
Philbrook died in 1958 in Point Pleasant, Ocean County. She was 86.