Trailblazing Attorney, Community Service Leader

Rowena Easterling (1902-2000) was born in Cambridge to William and Nancy (Richardson) Easterling and graduated from Cambridge High and Latin School in 1920. After finishing the Ethel Downe Business School, Rowena earned a law degree from Portia Law School (now New England School of Law) and passed the Bar exam. In October 1938 the Boston Globe heralded this as “marking one of the few times a local, colored woman has passed the Massachusetts Bar.” She was admitted to federal practice in 1942.

Rowena married William McKinley Taylor in 1928, and the couple moved into 193 Fayerweather Street; they were lifelong members of Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church. William died in 1973, and Rowena moved to Bedford, where she passed at age 98.

Rowena Taylor had a distinguished career: she was a contract officer for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Diseases (now Mental Health); Cambridge Assistant City Solicitor; and a lawyer in private practice with an office in the Abbot Building in Harvard Square. (However, the 1950 census and city directories list her occupation as “accountant.”)

She was active in many community service organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers, and West Cambridge Neighborhood Association. She served as vice-president of the Aristo Club, a group of professional women of color in Greater Boston, whose mission was to teach Negro (Black) history in Boston public schools and raise money for college scholarships. Rowena Taylor was a trailblazing role model for young women and girls, encouraging them to pursue their career goals and support their communities.