Born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1901, Amsterdam attended Hunter College High School, studied for one year at the City College of New York, and then attended New York University School of Law. Amsterdam attended law school at night while working as a record-keeper at Mount Sinai Hospital. According to her New York Times obituary, "Mount Sinai doctors helped her practice by steering friends her way. She swiftly established a reputation not only as a skillful lawyer but also as an eloquent friend of the downtrodden, a champion of women's rights and a diligent [Democratic] party worker."
In 1940, Amsterdam was elected to the New York City Municipal Court, becoming the first woman to serve as a judge of that court. She was reelected to that position in 1949. In 1954, Amsterdam was appointed to fill a vacancy as a justice of the City Court, a higher-ranking tribunal on which she was again the first woman to serve as a judge; she was elected to a full term on that court in 1955. In 1958, Amsterdam was elected as a Justice of the New York State Supreme Court, the state's highest trial court. She served in that position until her retirement in 1975.
- Saxon, Wolfgang (July 10, 1996). "Birdie Amsterdam, 95, a Pioneer for Female Judges in New York". New York Times.
- Judith S. Kaye, "Justice Amsterdam, First Woman on Bench", New York Law Journal, May 6, 1991.
- Dorothy Thomas, "Birdie Amsterdam, 1901-1996", in Jewish Woman's Archive: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, available at http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/amsterdam-birdie
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