The Chicago Park District officially named this new park in honor of Mary Bartelme (1866 – 1954), the first woman judge in Illinois, who devoted her life to reforming the treatment of children and women in the court system. Born near Fulton and Halsted Streets, Bartelme was a Chicago Public School teacher who decided to become one of the city’s first women lawyers.
Admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1894, Bartelme was appointed as Public Guardian of Cook County three years later, and helped establish America’s first juvenile court in 1899. Sixteen years later, she was chosen to assist the presiding judge, allowing girls in the juvenile court system the opportunity to appear before a female judge for this first time. She went on to be elected as a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1923.
Bartelme donated her own house in Chicago to establish a “Mary’s Club,” a group home where girls could be safe and learn important life skills. In all, she established three “Mary’s Club” homes, including one for African-American girls. Nicknamed “Suitcase Mary,” she formed a program to provide suitcases filled with proper clothing and toiletries to young women coming out of the court system to help them establish as respectable life.
Once a month