Today, The Legal Aid Society celebrates its 143rd anniversary. Founded in 1876, in the centennial year of American independence to provide free legal assistance to immigrants, a national movement was born here in New York City that spread across this country. The vision of our founders that equal access to justice should not be denied because of poverty was a tremendous dream that we and our counterparts throughout the country work every day to make a reality.
From its early days, The Legal Aid Society has particularly championed the rights of women, fighting for immigrant working women who needed the protection of the law with wage and dismissal claims. Today, our clients include survivors of domestic abuse, undocumented women seeking a living wage, homeless women trying to secure a safe place for their children to sleep, trans women fighting for health care and women held at Rikers away from their families and communities simply because they cannot afford bail. We are the change for women in New York City, but we do not lose sight of the plight of women throughout the world. We stand in solidarity with those celebrating International Women’s Day throughout the world and the extraordinary and transcendent contributions of women.
The words of the Honorable Learned Hand, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, spoken at the 75th anniversary celebration of The Legal Aid Society in 1951, were never truer than they are today: ‘If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou Shalt Not Ration Justice.’ Today, in the face of new challenges confronting our clients, we stand with them, every day in every borough, fighting for justice.”