Helen Lehman Buttenwieser

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Helen Lehman Buttenweiser)
Jump to: navigation, search

Helen Lehman Buttenwieser (October 8, 1905 – November 22, 1989) was a 20th-century American lawyer, philanthropist, and later-life legal counselor of Alger Hiss.[1][2]


Helen Lehman was born on October 8, 1905, to the Lehman family of New York. Her parents were Arthur Lehman (son of Mayer Lehman, founder of the New York Cotton Exchange and partner in Lehman Brothers Bank) and Adele Lewisohn (daughter of Adolph Lewisohn).[2]

She attended Horace Mann School. In 1923, she graduated from Connecticut College for Women. During the period 1927–1933, she attended the New York School of Social Work and took courses at Columbia University. In 1936, she graduated from New York University Law School.[1][2]


From 1927 to 1932, she became a social worker. She worked for the Wardell Commission on Social Welfare and Foster Home Bureau of Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society. From 1929 to 1945, she served on the board of the Madison Settlement House. From 1930 to 1935, she served as a commissioner on the New York City Board of Child Welfare.[1][2]

In 1936, she became the first woman to work at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore but left after a year because of the impending birth of one of her children. In 1937, she became one of the first women admitted to the New York City Bar Association. Also in 1937, she began a half-century association with the Legal Aid Society (first woman chairman 1979–1983). In 1942, she became a 20-year trustee of the Dalton School. In 1947 (to 1950), she became first chairwoman of a standing committee of the Bar Association of the City of New York. In 1949, she became the first female bank director, as trustee of the Title Guarantee and Trust Company. Also, from 1949 to 1950, she was a member of the civil rights committee of the New York State Bar Association. From 1949 through 1980, she served as a trustee of Connecticut College.[1][2]

Around 1940, she founded her own law firm, Brennan, London and Buttenwieser. The Jewish Child Care Association was a client from 1940 to 1975.

In 1947, she co-founded Beer, Richards, Lane, Haller & Buttenwieser, 1947–1959[3][4] Harold Rosenwald (one of the first lawyers to join the Alger Hiss defense team) was a member of the firm.[5]

During the 1950s, another client was the Leake and Watts Children's Home, Graham Home for Children, Abbott House. In 1962, she represented alleged Soviet spy Alger Hiss and convicted Soviet spy Robert Soblen. In the 1960s, Martin Garbus in her law firm counseled comedian Lenny Bruce. In 1968, she was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.[2][6] Her legal work focused on aiding women and children (especially adoption, foster care, and child welfare) and preserving civil liberties. She was active in the New York Democratic State Committee, the New York City Bar Association, the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Legal Defense Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.[1][2]

Personal and death[edit]

In 1929, she married Benjamin Buttenwieser, a prominent banker and philanthropist. She left Cravath after a year because of the impending birth of a child.[1]

She died age 84 of heart failure at New York Hospital on November 22, 1989.[1][2]


  • 1980: Louis Dembitz Brandeis Medal for Distinguished Legal Service, Brandeis University
  • 1983: Legal Aid Society Servant of Justice Award
  • 1988: "Roasted" by Association of the Bar of the City of New York
  • 1989: Horace Mann Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Service


The Helen Lehman Buttenwieser Scholarship and Fellowship at Columbia University is named in her honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Anderson, Susan Heller (23 November 1989). "Helen Buttenwieser, 84, Lawyer and Civic Leader". New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Buttenwieser, Helen L.. Papers of Helen L. Buttenwieser, 1909-1990". Harvard Law School. February 1994. Retrieved 21 August 2017. 
  3. ^ "Lane, Chester T. Briefs, 1937-1942: Finding Aid". Harvard University Library. 2004. Retrieved 17 September 2017. 
  4. ^ "United States of America, Plaintiff-respondent, v. Eve B. Pahmer, Defendant-appellee,eva Pahmer, Defendant-appellant, 238 F.2d 431 (2d Cir. 1956)". Justia. 1 November 1956. Retrieved 17 September 2017. 
  5. ^ White, G. Edward (2004). Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass War: The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy. Oxford University Press. pp. ix (role), 57 (firm), 175 (psychological). ISBN 0190288418. Retrieved 17 September 2017. 
  6. ^ Collins, Ronald K. L.; Skover, David M. (2012). The Trials of Lenny Bruce. Top Five Books. p. 178. Retrieved 21 August 2017. 

External links[edit]