As Women’s History Month comes to an end, it is important to remember that acknowledging women’s achievements and contributions to culture and history is not exclusive to the first weeks of March but March as a whole. Millions of women—past and present—have selflessly given so much to the benefit of humankind; it is thanks to them that we enjoy the many freedoms we hold dear today. Continuing in this vein, over the years there have been countless trailblazers and remarkable women here in Hudson County, spearheading change and excellence from generation to generation, and although some of the women below may not be originally from Hudson County, their trendsetting and pioneering dynamic has assisted Hudson County to what it is today.
Mary Philbrook, Jersey City
Philbrook made history when she was appointed as the first woman to practice before the United States Supreme Court in 1906. Philbrook began her legal career in the Jersey City firm of Bacot and Record. Philbrook gave educational lectures about women’s legal rights to club women all around the state during her career. Rutgers University now bestows an annual prize in her honor on female legal professionals.
Esther Salas, Union City
Judge Salas is the first Hispanic woman to hold the positions of US Magistrate Judge and US District Judge in the District of New Jersey. She was a Union City resident and Salas attended Emerson High School. Salas was nominated by Obama on January 5, 2011, at the start of the 112th Congress, and was approved by the Senate by voice vote on June 14, 2011, making her the first Latina to serve on the District Court of New Jersey.
Jane Tuers, Jersey City
During the Revolutionary War, she was a patriot who helped to sabotage a British attempt to take over West Point. She had a part in validating intelligence concerning a British plot to take over West Point with Benedict Arnold. Jane Tuers (1736/37–1815) (or Toers) and her husband Nicholas Tuers (1736/37–1815) were farmers in Bergen Township, New Jersey (now known as Jersey City).
Sandra Dee, Bayonne
Sandra Dee, who was born on April 23, 1942, in Bayonne, New Jersey, earned a name for herself as an ingénue in the 1950s and 1960s teen films. She aided in pioneering many genres of film, and Dee won a Golden Globe for her portrayal in Robert Wise’s Until They Sail as one of the year’s most promising newcomers.
Maria Pepe, Hoboken
After Little League officially forbade girls from participating in 1951, Maria Pepe was one of the first girls to play Little League baseball. She pitched three Little League games for the Young Democrats team in Hoboken, New Jersey, when she was 12 years old.
Shirley Tolentino, Jersey City
She was the first female African-American municipal court judge in Jersey City in 1976. She was the first black woman to serve as the presiding judge of the Jersey City Municipal Court in 1981. She was also the state’s first female African-American Superior Court judge in 1984.
Ida Rosenthal and Enid Bissett, Bayonne
Maidenform, Inc., a brassiere firm based in Bayonne, was founded by the two. The brassiere was redesigned by Rosenthal and Bissett into a more comfortable garment. They changed the style from a simple back-hooking band to a bandeau design. The bandeau was so popular that ladies started making them out of silk and selling them for a dollar.
Darline Hernandez started writing poetry during the pandemic and successfully published her book titled “El Arte De Volar Sin Ser Mariposa” on July, 12, 2022. Since then she has participated in various open mics around the East Coast and has participated in numerous writing magazines such as, “La Liberta,” “She Rose Magazine,” and “Palabritas.”
Erika Mercedes, Union City
Erika Mercedes became Union City’s first 1,000 point scorer in March 2021 and she was the first player from UCHS to be selected to the NJSIAA North All-Star Girls Basketball Team. This season she made it to the Hudson County Finals and won a State Championship.