Born August 30, 1921, in Sifton, Manitoba, Mary John Batten (née Fodchuk) was educated in Saskatchewan in Calder, Ituna, and Regina. Attending the University of Saskatchewan she earned degrees in both arts and law. Articling under future Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, she was accepted to the Saskatchewan bar in 1945. She settled in Humboldt and became involved in a variety of community organizations.
Batten ran in 1956 in the constituency of Humboldt for the Liberals, defeating CCF Cabinet Minister Joseph Burton. As the Liberals’ only elected lawyer, Batten served as Justice critic. A vocal critic of party leader Hammy McDonald, Batten was instrumental in precipitating McDonald’s resignation, which led to the leadership convention that elected Ross Thatcher.
Re-elected with a large majority in 1960, Batten served out the term before being appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench. She was the second woman appointed to the court. In the 1960s she chaired two provincial Royal Commissions—in 1966 on accounting practices, and in 1968 on the cost of living. In 1983, Batten was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench, the first female chief justice in Saskatchewan history. Batten remained on the bench until her retirement from the court in 1990, having spent twenty-six years as a judge.