Norma Karaian

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The first American-born Armenian female attorney in the United States. She was born in Providence in 1904 as Yaghnor Maksoodian, later she changed her first name to Norma after the actress Norma Talmadge to sound more familiar to Americans.

She started working at the age of 8, operating the cash register at her father's store.

At the age of 20 she graduated from Boston University Law School but had to wait a year to take the bar exam since she had not yet turned 21. In the interim, she found a job at a law office that paid $15 per week. At that time women were banned from the practice, but she ignored gender bias while becoming widely recognized in her field. In 1926 Mrs. Karaian was called to become a real estate attorney and she remained at the post until 1941, when she retired and had three children. In 1951 her husband, Leo J. Karaian, an organic chemist, died, Mrs. Karaian began performing contract work even without a high payment. For years she worked in Hoag & Sullivan, Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster firms and in 1972, she moved to Gaston & Snow, where she remained until the firm folded in 1991. She was very accomplished and well-known in the legal arena when it concerned real estate law.

For the remainder of her life, Mrs. Karaian took on legal projects and was honored with numerous awards. She was a member of numerous organizations and in 1954, she served a year as president of the Massachusetts Association of Women Lawyers.

She died on January 15, 2005 at her home in Watertown, she was 100. Besides her son John, she left two daughters, Lenore of Waltham and Marilyn Hollisian of Watertown. Funeral services were held at St. James Armenian in Watertwon.


  • Norma Karaian, 100; was Boston real estate attorney, By Glenn E. Yoder. Boston Globe, MA, January 18, 2005