She was born in Syracuse on April 11, 1866, the daughter of Edwin S. and Marie Jenney. Her father was a lawyer and a veteran of the Civil War. After completing her high school education locally she applied for admission to the Cornell law school but was turned down. Julie was accepted, however, at the University of Michigan Law School, graduating in 1892, the only woman in her class. She returned to Syracuse with her law degree in hand and began working in her father’s law office. She had been admitted to the bar in 1894, becoming the first female member of the organization. When her father died in 1900, the law office was reorganized and Julie became an equal partner with her two cousins, William S. and Alexander D. Jenney.
Julie Jenney was fast becoming an advocate of social justice. At the
National American Convention of 1896, she expressed her opinion that
women’s legal rights were at that time seen as a “license,” and they could be revoked at any time at the whim of the bodies granting them. Thus, until women were allowed to elect lawmakers, women could not be guaranteed any rights at all.
Recognizing the lack of legal representation for poor women, she organized the Legal Relief Society of Syracuse. Her office door was always open to women in need of legal advice. She also organized the Syracuse Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Professional Women’s League. In 1919 she was appointed the first woman District Supervisor for the Federal Census to be taken in 1920. Also in 1920, she became the first woman Deputy Attorney General of New York State. In 1922 she stated that women should be able to serve on juries, and two years later she advocated jail time for what we call today “dead-beat dads.” She was opinionated, outspoken, and a tireless worker for equal rights for all. When Julie R. Jenney passed away on December 21, 1947, Syracuse lost an icon, a heroine, a pioneer, a truly great lady.