Elizabeth Head -- New York

October 28, 2017 GMT

Elizabeth “Betty” (Bonner) Head died peacefully in her apartment in Manhattan on Sept. 21, 2017. She had been in declining health for several years and died of heart failure at the age of 86.

Mrs. Head was born in Rochester. Her father, Walter E. Bonner, taught chemistry in Rochester High School for more than 30 years. Her mother, Ruth W., taught English and Social Studies. An outstanding student, Elizabeth won a scholarship at age 15 to attend the University of Chicago. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa at age 18 and entered the University of Chicago Law School, where she met her future husband, C.J. Head. She graduated from law school at the age of 21, receiving a J.D. degree cum laude.


Elizabeth and C.J. Head were married in Rochester during their second year of law school. She was 20, he was 24. They were together for 66 years until C.J.’s death in January 2017.

Both were highly successful lawyers, holding positions with law firms or corporations in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Tulsa, Okla., and New York. She began her practice with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. After three years of working in San Francisco during the 1950s, she and her husband moved to New York City, where she became the first woman attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager and Flom and then the first female partner at Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler – both major New York law firms. Her final job in New York was with Columbia University, where she served for seven and a half years as General Counsel, retiring in 1996. After retirement, they continued to live in New York – a city they both loved.

Mrs. Head belonged to a small number of women who graduated from major law schools in the 1950s and went on to achieve success and recognition in the legal profession, serving as mentors and role models for future women lawyers.

She is survived by her daughter, Alison Head of Hamilton, Va.; and her brother, William Bonner of Charlottesville, Va.