Stanley, Winifred Claire (1909–1996)

views updated

Stanley, Winifred Claire (1909–1996)

American attorney and politician. Born Winifred Claire Stanley on August 14, 1909, in the Mount Hope section of the Bronx, New York; died on February 29, 1996, in Kenmore, New York; eldest of six children of John Francis Stanley and Mary (Gill) Stanley; University of Buffalo, B.A., magna cum laude, 1930, LL.B., 1933, J.D., 1933; never married.

Became assistant district attorney for Erie County, New York, and served a single term as New York State's Republican Representative-at-Large to the U.S. House of Representatives, the youngest female member of Congress up to that point; returned from Washington, D.C., to state service in Albany, first as counsel to New York's Employee's Retirement System, then as assistant attorney general until her return to private practice.

Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1909, the eldest of six children, Winifred Claire Stanley moved with her family to upstate New York as a young girl and attended public schools in her hometown of Buffalo. She was an outstanding and energetic student, winning numerous commendations and active in a variety of extracurricular activities. Remaining at the home of her closeknit family, she attended the University of Buffalo beginning in 1926, earning three degrees, including a law degree. Stanley was one of four women to graduate from the university's law school in 1933, and was honored with the Edward Thompson award, given to the student with the highest scholastic average over a three-year period.

Admitted to the Bar of the State of New York in 1934, Stanley practiced law in Buffalo for four years before becoming the first woman to be appointed as Erie County's assistant district attorney in 1938. In that position, she prosecuted such cases as abandonment of women and children until 1942, when she successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives on the Republican ticket. Her war-time platform consisted mostly of preparing the nation for peace at the end of World War II. Serving in Congress from 1943 to 1945 in an at-large seat that was eliminated following the census of 1940, Stanley was assigned to committees on patents and on civil service, and voted, along the lines of her fellow Republicans, against several of the New Deal policies endorsed by President Franklin Roosevelt; she did, however, support Roosevelt's proposal to end poll taxes. With the expected elimination of her house seat in 1945, Stanley did not attempt a second elected office. Instead, she returned to upstate New York after accepting New York Governor Thomas Dewey's offer of the position as counsel to the New York State Employee's Retirement System. She held that post from 1945 to 1955.

In 1955, Stanley returned to the office of the attorney general, this time as an assistant attorney general for the state of New York, and worked out of the state capital at Albany for the next 24 years. In 1980, she returned to the private practice of law, first in Albany and then in Kenmore, following a move to that town in 1981. Retiring in 1986, Stanley died ten years later. Active in civic, political, and social affairs throughout her life, Stanley never married, preferring

to dedicate her life to her career in public service. Her youth, intelligence and success as a prosecutor came as a surprise to both her colleagues and the press early on in her career, as many were struck by her vivacity, good looks, and her wardrobe, which caused her to be chosen one of the Fashion Academy's best dressed women of 1943.


Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1943.

Office of the Historian. Women in Congress, 1917–1990. Commission on the Bicentenary of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1991.

Pamela Shelton , freelance writer, Avon, Connecticut

About this article

Stanley, Winifred Claire (1909–1996)

Updated About content Print Article