May 4th, 2012
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (HBI) have awarded Marlene Trestman much-sought after grants that will enable her to complete the first biography of Bessie Margolin, a pioneering woman lawyer of the New Deal and Supreme Court advocate who was raised in New Orleans’ Jewish Orphans’ Home. Just last month, a portion of Ms. Trestman’s work was published in the Journal of Supreme Court History, “Fair Labor: The Remarkable Life and Legal Career of Bessie Margolin, 1909-1996.”
The NEH Summer Stipend is a highly competitive program that supports advanced research and writing “that is of value to humanities scholars, general audiences, or both.” The HBI, which focuses on Jewish women and gender issues, noted that Trestman’s biography of Margolin “will make an important contribution to American history and Jewish women’s history.”
According to Trestman, “Margolin was a trailblazing woman lawyer who used her brains, beauty and Southern charm to prove equality for women while contributing to three historic events of the 20th century: defending the constitutionality of the New Deal’s Tennessee Valley Authority, drafting the rules for the Nazi war crimes Subsequent Proceedings in Nuremberg, and overseeing the court enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Equal Pay Act. If that weren’t enough, Margolin also argued 28 cases in the Supreme Court on behalf of the Labor Department, and prevailed in 25 of them.” Trestman added, “A book about Margolin is long overdue, and I’m thrilled to have been given the chance to tell her story.”
Beyond academic interest, Trestman has a personal connection to her subject. Trestman was raised in New Orleans as a ward of the Jewish Children’s Regional Service, the social service agency that succeeded the orphanage in which Bessie Margolin was raised. Like Margolin, Trestman was also given the opportunity to attend the Isidore Newman School under its founding mandate to educate Jewish orphans. These shared childhood experiences – a half-century apart – prompted Margolin and Trestman to meet in 1974, and to spend time together over the next decade while Trestman attended college and law School, and as she began her own career as a public lawyer.
Trestman is a Special Assistant to the Maryland Attorney General with responsibility for enforcing public health and consumer laws relating to tobacco and alcohol, and for promoting Internet safety. Trestman has twice received the Attorney General’s Exceptional Service Award, and has been recognized three times among Maryland’s Top 100 Women. In 2004, Trestman received Isidore Newman’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Goucher College, Ms. Trestman received her law degree from George Washington University National Law Center, and her M.B.A. from Loyola of Maryland Sellinger School of Business & Management, where she teaches law.
For a complete outline of the life and accomplishments of Bessie Margolin, visit www.marlenetrestman.com.