Arlene Violet

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Arlene Violet
68th Attorney General of Rhode Island
In office
GovernorEdward D. DiPrete
Preceded byDennis J. Roberts II
Succeeded byJames E. O'Neil
Personal details
Providence, Rhode Island
Political partyRepublican
EducationProvidence College
Alma materSalve Regina University
Boston College Law School
OccupationNun, author, talk show host, and politician

Arlene Violet (born 1943) was a religious sister in the Sisters of Mercy[1] and Attorney General of Rhode Island 1985–1987. She was the first female Attorney General elected in the United States.[2] [3]


Arlene Violet was born into a middle class Republican–voting[1] family in Providence, Rhode Island. After attending Providence College, she entered Sisters of Mercy convent in 1961, taking her final vows in 1969. Violet said she joined the convent because "I wanted to do something with my life and try to make a difference, and I saw nuns as the people who could make that difference."[4]

Violet later earned a bachelor's degree from Salve Regina University and was a school teacher in a disadvantaged neighborhood in the early 1970s. Becoming interested in law, she enrolled at Boston College Law School, graduating in 1974. During her schooling, she clerked in the judge's chambers and did an internship in the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office. Due to financial difficulties at the convent, she left her legal work and returned to the convent, serving as an administrative nun through the early 1980s.[2]

Attorney General of Rhode Island[edit]

In 1982 she ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General. But when she ran again in 1984, Violet won the election, becoming the first elected female attorney general in the United States.[2] During her time in office she focused on organized crime, environmental issues, and victim's rights.[2] She also pushed for banking reform.[5]


Shortly after taking office in 1984 Violet learned that the Rhode Island Share and Deposit Indemnity Corporation (RISDIC), a government chartered but private (similar to Amtrak) insurance fund meant to protect the state banking system, was "woefully underfunded" with only $25 million in reserves.[5] She found that RISDIC was making loans to politically connected people without any personal guarantees.[5] Violet pushed for legislation to require Rhode Island banks to be federally insured, but this was voted down.[5] Violet warned that the banking system in Rhode Island was "a house of cards."[5] Four years later, Rhode Island faced a run on the banks, and in January 1991, newly elected Governor Bruce Sundlun declared a bank emergency.[5]

Other achievements[edit]

One of her innovations was to use videotape interviews of child victims rather than direct testimony.[2] She also won recognition for reopening the Von Bülow case.[6]

Violet lost her reelection bid in 1986 and her term ended.[7][5]

Life after politics[edit]

After leaving office, Violet returned to prosecuting, taught environmental law at Brown University, ran a talk show on WHJJ Radio from 1990 to 2006, and writes a weekly political column. She has written two books Convictions: My Journey from the Convent to the Courtroom (1988), an autobiography, and The Mob and Me (2010) a book about the witness protection program. She also drafted a manual on search seizure law.[2] She was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1996.[8]

She wrote a musical, The Family, A Musical Drama About the Mob, with composer and lyricist, Enrico Garzilli, which premiered by special arrangement with Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI in June 2011.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Butterfield, Fox (January 20, 1984). "Rhode Island Nun Quits Her Order to Run for Attorney General". New York City, New York: The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 24, 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Weatherford, Doris (2012). Women in American Politics: History and Milestones. Los Angeles, California: CQ Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-1-60871-007-2.
  3. ^ Rutgers, Center for American Women And Politics (accessed 5/23/2007) Archived May 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Chapter Thirteen: The Network". Crimetown. Gimlet Media. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Bramson, Kate (19 March 2017). "Crimetown Episode 13 review: Arlene Violet's doomed battle and the R.I. banking crisis". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Lawyers for Von Bulow Challenge Rhode Island on Trial Preparation". New York City, New York: The New York Times. May 22, 1985. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  7. ^ "State Fact Sheet - Rhode Island". Rutgers University, New Jersey: Eagleton Institute of Politics. 2015. Archived from the original on 28 December 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  8. ^ "Arlene Violet". Providence, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame. 1996. Archived from the original on 27 December 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2015.

External links[edit]