Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

Mabel Rebecca Dole Haden

Virginia & Washington D.C.

We learned that Mabel Haden was a lawyer and wrote poetry, by way of an article about her that appeared in the Washington Post shortly after her death. We draw the biographical information about Haden from Joe Holley, "Mabel Haden; Pioneering Black Lawyer in D.C.," Washington Post, October 20, 2006, p. B7:

--Haden grew up in rual Virginia, and her early education was in a one-room schoolhouse.

-- She spent years working as a nanny, teacher and a switchboard operator.

--She became one of the first African American female lawyers in Washington, D.C., where she practiced law for nearly four decades.

--Haden gained a reputation for providing legal assistance to indigent clients, and for her tireless encouragement of young African American women to go into law.

-- Washington lawyer Jack Oleander, describes Haden as " a great pioneer," and tells a story about how Haden collected old law books from firms around the city, to help build a law library for what was then, Lorton Prison (now closed).

--Mabel Rebecca Dole Haden was born near Lynch Station, Virginia, February 17, 1909. (Haden occasionally related that she was born in 1904.) She was the eighth of 11 children.

--She and her sister, Alice, were students at the Allen Home School in Asheville, North Carolina, a school for "colored girls" established by New England white women during Reconstruction. When Alice graduated, the Allen Home headmaster informed the

--Haden transferred to the Barber-Scotia School for Girls, now a college, in Concord, North Carolina, and later graduated in the mid-1920s from Pittsylvania County High School in Gretna, Virginia.

--She took a teaching job in the public schools of Campbell County, Virginia, and later, in the Danville, Virginia area.

--She moved to Washington D.C. where she worked as a nanny for several years during the 1930s and attended night school for a second high school education.

--In the 1940s, she enrolled at Howard University, but low of funds, was not able to graduate. She became a switchboard operator at a Catholic social services agency in the District.

--At the social services agency, Haden met a priest, the Rev. Michael J. Ready, who offered to fund her tuition if she would return to school. Haden then enrolled at Virginia State College, where she received her undergraduate degree in education in the early 1940s. For the next several years, she taught at Neval Thomas Elementary School and other D.C. schools.

--She received her law degree from Howard University law school in 1948 by attending night school.

--In the early years of her practice, she was a criminal defense attorney, but she also continued to teach into the 1950s, when she was able to finally devote herself full-time to law. She eventually opened an office and began to do civil law work.

--Haden obtained her master's degree in law from Georgetown University in 1956. She shared the honor, with a classmate, in being the first women to receive the degree. Haden was the first African American woman to receive an LL.M. at Georgetown.

-- She obtained her real estate broker's license.

--Haden, according to the Washington Post article "loved to dance and listen to gospel and rhythm and blues, especially the sounds of Ray Charles, Brook Benton and Wilson Pickett. She also traveled a great deal, wrote poetry and held poetry readings."

In Memoriam
Washington Bar Association

[See generally: Notable Black American Women: Book II (Detroit: MI Gale Research, 1992-2003)(Haden took up the writing of poetry when her last surviving sister died.); Carole Boston Weatherford, "Profile--Mabel D. Haden: Advocating Sisterhood, 7 NBA Magazine 6-7 (Jan.-March, 1988)]


Mabel Dole Haden, Even at My Age: Poems and Other Writings of XM (Published by Mabel Dole Haden, 1995)

_______________, I'm Sorry, My Skin Does Not Please You (Self-published, 2000)