Christine Beshar, Trailblazing Lawyer

Christine Beshar (born Christine Luise Luitgarde Annette von Wedemeyer), one of the first women to be named partner in a Wall Street law firm, established a pioneering child-care service for its employees. Ms. Beshar specialized in trust and estate law. She was made the first female partner in 1971 at  Cravath, Swaine & Moore. She worked there until her death, in 2018, at the age of 88.

In 1989, she proposed that the firm offer onsite child care for their employees. The firm had moved and a back up child care facility was no longer available to the employees.  They were the first firm in the city to begin the service in 1991. Many firms and businesses followed throughout the decades.

Ms. Beshar, an immigrant from Germany,  passed the New York bar exam in 1959 on her first try without having attended law school. She had clerked for her husband’s firm for four years. Now classroom attendance in law school is required before someone can take the bar exam. She was the daughter of farmers in Prussia and born in November of 1929. Her father was killed fighting for Germany in World War II. With her 3 siblings, she fled the advancing Soviet army in January 1945, a few months before the war in Europe ended. After attending the University of Hamburg and the University of Tuebingen, she won a Fulbright Scholarship to attend Smith College in Northampton, Mass. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1953. She met her husband, who attended Yale Law School, on a blind date. She would not accept his proposal until he met and gained the approval of her mother, still in Germany. They were married in December 1953 and returned to the United States, where Ms. Beshar became a citizen in 1957.

She formally retired in 1999, but remained active in law and counseled many non-profits throughout her retirement as well as continuing her work with Cravath, Swaine, & Moore.

When Ms. Beshar was elected as a partner at the law firm, her boss, Roswell Gilpatric, told her that there was one issue that had yet to be resolved: The firm had only one restroom reserved for partners.

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