Who was Pearl?
Pearl M. Hart practiced law in Chicago for 61 years as an advocate for the oppresed, most notably children, women, immigrants, and homosexuals.
Hart grew up in the bustling Russian Jewish neighborhoods on Chicago’s Near West Side. In 1914, she graduated from John Marshall Law School, and became one of the first female attorneys in Chicago to specialize in criminal law.
Hart was recognized as an expert on the juvenile justice system. She drafted legislation, served on reform committees, and spoke before civic groups, all in an effort to protect Chicago’s most vulnerable citizens.
In the 1950s, Hart focused on defending immigrants in deportation proceedings. In U.S. v. Witkovich, which she took to the United States Supreme Court, the high court agreed with her contention that the Attorney General’s power to question aliens subject to deportation was limited by constitutional safeguards.
Called the “Guardian Angel of Chicago’s Gay Community” for her diligent fight against police harassment, Hart was inducted posthumously into Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1992. The Pearl Hart papers can be found at the Chicago History Museum.