University of Pittsburgh
August 8, 2007

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

Alpern's papers highlighting her career and accomplishments are invaluable resource for students and scholars

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-Anne X. Alpern-a renowned Pittsburgh jurist who paved the way for women in the field of law-is the focus of an exhibition on the ground floor of Pitt's Hillman Library, 3960 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 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 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Alpern was noted for her brilliance in the courtroom and her commitment to public service in city, county, and state government. Born in Russia in the early 1900s, she and her family moved to Pittsburgh shortly afterward. She earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1923 and a law degree in 1927, both from the University of Pittsburgh.

As the first woman to serve as city solicitor, in 1942, Alpern was a champion for 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, Pa. 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 court, where she stayed until her retirement in 1974. She died in Pittsburgh in 1981.

The collection's photographs document Alpern's meetings with prominent figures in state and U.S. history, including David 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 her political decisions and public interactions. The papers are an invaluable resource for historians interested in the Pittsburgh Renaissance, city and industrial law, public transit, and women and legal practice.

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."