Monaghan, magistrate, lawyer

C. M.

September 18, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Charlotte Main Monaghan, one of Baltimore's first female police magistrates and a lawyer known for her compassion and equanimity, died Wednesday of heart failure at Sinai Hospital. She was 69.

In May 1951, she was named a justice of the peace by Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin, who in 1952 appointed her magistrate of the Women's and Children's Court at the Pine Street police station.

The state legislature's rejection of her reappointment in 1955 caused a furor, with politicians refusing to give women's groups an explanation.

"A Baltimore police magistrate is at the mercy of the six city senators, who can keep a magistrate in office if he or she plays up to them or reject a magistrate without any public explantion if he or she has displeased them," said The Sun in an editorial at the time.

"She was so good we could point to her with pride and say to the men, 'A woman can do it,' " recalled Margaret Willis Sparrow, who was the president of the Maryland Women's Council at the time. The council was established to obtain jury service for women and promote women for positions in public office. It disbanded in the early 1960s.

The first female magistrate-at-large in the city's history was Grace M. Hartnett, appointed by Gov. Harry W. Nice in 1935.

In 1947, the Maryland legislature passed Senate Bill 99 -- with 12 counties exempted -- that allowed women to serve on juries. It wasn't until 1959 that the last two holdouts, Howard and Garrett counties, agreed to the measure.

"They tried to keep women off of juries with the excuse that there weren't proper toilet facilities," recalled Mrs. Sparrow, a Timonium resident. "It was a long hard struggle, but we just wanted equal rights." Mrs. Monaghan, who was a member of the Women's Council, "was a very quiet but effective person," Mrs. Sparrow said. "As a magistrate, she knew the law and dealt out penalties and punishment equally. She was never bitter about what happened. She accepted it as a fact of life and went on with her legal life."

The staff at the Pine Street station, at a farewell dinner, praised Mrs. Monaghan for her "dignity, refinement and finesse," said The Sun in 1955. "She has raised the dignity of the women's tribunal to something of which the city of Baltimore can be proud," Lt. Anthony Doyle told the newspaper.

Born and reared in Forest Park, the daughter of lawyer Charles W. Main was a 1942 graduate of Forest Park High School. After working for the Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1943, she enrolled at the University of Baltimore. She received an associate of arts degree and, in 1948, a law degree.

She joined her father in the practice of law in his office at 2 E. Lexington St. After her 1962 marriage to Hugh J. Monaghan II, she practiced with him until his death in 1984.

"My mother used to look around the dinner table and say, 'Everyone here is a lawyer,' " recalled Mrs. Monaghan's sister, Mabel M. Wilson, a lawyer.

Bob Nead, who practices law in the Fidelity Building across the hall from the offices of Monaghan and Main, said, "She was a very thorough lawyer and was very detail oriented. She was always concerned and compassionate about her clients, which seemed to me to be several generations of the same family."

Mrs. Monaghan "was never critical nor did she complain about others," said Mr. Nead, a friend for nearly 30 years.

Long active in Republican politics, she unsuccessfully sought a state Senate seat from the 5th District in 1958.

Her professional memberships included the Women's Bar Association of Baltimore City, Bar Association of Baltimore City, Trial Magistrates Association of Baltimore City and American Bar Association. She was a member of Iota Tau Tau International, a legal sorority.

She was a member of the Maryland Historical Society, the English Speaking Union and the Woman's Club of Roland Park.

Services are planned for 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St., Baltimore.

In addition to her sister, Mrs. Monaghan is survived by a son, Hugh J. Monaghan III of Roland Park; and a daughter, Florence Monaghan-Gitlin of Rodgers Forge.

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