After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, Margaret Marshall moved to the U.S. and pursued a Master’s degree in Education at Harvard and a J.D at Yale Law School (1976). During the apartheid era, as a student activist, she led the National Union of South African Students dedicated to achieving equality for all South Africans. Her legal career in Boston included years of private practice and five years as General Counsel at Harvard University.
In 1999, Marshall was appointed as Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the first woman to serve in that capacity in its 300 year history. Among the more than 200 opinions, Marshall wrote the decision in Goodridge v Department of Public Health that declared that the Massachusetts constitution does not permit the state to deny citizens the right to same-sex marriage. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Marshall has had a significant and enduring impact on Yale, both through the Law School and as the first woman Senior Fellow of Yale Corporation.