The mothers, the millennials, and the mavens. Changing our communities.
This is our seventh annual unveiling of 50 amazing women who are raising the bar in their communities, serving as beacons of light in their industries, and forcing change for the greater good. Meet this West Virginia Wonder Woman, Mary Stanley, and many more that are creating a better West Virginia with their can-do attitudes and Mountain State spirit.
Mary Stanley knew as a high school student in Vienna, Virginia, that she wanted to be a lawyer. When she and her husband graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1973, he had a job offer in West Virginia. The law was still a male profession, and finding a position here was challenging—but after practicing corporate law for two years and then, as a new mother, clerking part-time for U.S. District Judge Dennis Raymond Knapp, she made history by becoming the first female assistant U.S. attorney in West Virginia. Fifteen years later, in 1992, she broke another barrier as the first female U.S. magistrate judge in the state.
As a lawyer, Stanley says she felt best and proudest prosecuting cases in which she vindicated the public interest. “As a judge, I liked working on big, complicated cases and helping the parties get to a reasonable conclusion,” she says. She names litigation over the Fike Chemical Superfund site in St. Albans and over the failure of the First National Bank of Keystone in McDowell County among them.
Stanley took her firsts as a woman seriously. “I set a higher standard for myself, because I felt like I had to demonstrate that women were as good or better than men,” she told The State Journal when she retired in 2013. “I’ve always tried to be the best. I felt like, if I didn’t do well, that it would be more difficult for other women coming behind me.”