March 8th. Women’s Day. It would be vague, and disrespectful to assure that the following list of female attorneys is the only important one out there. However, we would like to show you a short summary of the American Law History, specifically towards women. Here is the list — not limited to —, of the 7 female lawyers who shaped the American law.
According to the American Bar Association (ABA) the ratio of men to women lawyers is nearly 2:1. This means that in 2020 65% of lawyers were men and 35% were women. Moreover, 85% of lawyers are white, compared to 77% of the U.S. population. Furthermore, 5% of lawyers are African American, 5% are Hispanic, and 3% are Asian.
These statistics are not meant to be malicious. On the contrary, it is important to know the place where we are standing right now. That is why it is strictly important to notice the list of the 10 female lawyers who shaped the American Law, throughout the U.S. history. Nevertheless, we strongly encourage you to keep finding new stories.
Here at Malloy Law Offices, LLC we proudly recognize our two female personal injury attorneys. Danielle Garcia is an enthusiastic young attorney who prides herself on putting her clients first. Moreover, Laritta Oligie prides herself in exceeding clients’ expectations while maintaining the utmost level of ethics, morale and professionalism.
In 1638, Margaret Brent became the first female to practice law. This was during the colonial America, where she was named the “executor of the estate of Lord Calvert”. Back in the day, Lord Calvert was the governor of the Maryland Colony. Ms. Brent’s practice included more than 100 court cases in Maryland and Virginia. However, there is no record of another female attorney in America until the mid-1800’s. That’s why she deserves the first place of the 7 female lawyers who shaped the American law.
Myra Bradwell founded and directed the “Chicago Legal News” in 1868. After that, Bradwell encouraged women to start practicing law. Moreover, she published a famous column named “Law Relating To Women”, where she emphasized some of the main controversial (back in the day) rights that women where seeking, such as suffrage. In 1873, Bradwell became nationally known after appealing to the United states Supreme Court in what is considered to be the first sexual discrimination case in American jurisprudence.
Lemma Barkaloo became the first woman to apply for admission for a university. This was back in 1868 after applying for admission to Columbia University Law School. Unfortunately, her application got rejected. Two other women applied and were also immediately denied entry. George Templeton Strong of Columbia wrote at the time: “No woman shall degrade herself by practicing law in New York especially if I can save her ‘Women’s Rights Women’ are uncommonly loud and offensive of late. I loathe the lot.”
Nevertheless, Barkaloo applied for admission to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, one year after. They accepted her request, and she became a first-year law student. Unfortunately, she didn’t last long; after enduring a year of non-stop harassment from male classmates, she left the school. Barkaloo passed the Missouri bar exam but died soon after during a typhoid epidemic in 1870 and was unable to fulfill her dream of practicing law. However, she will always be remembered for her tough fight against patriarchy.
Arabella Mansfield, born Belle Aurelia Babb, became the first female lawyer in the United States in 1869. She got admitted to the Iowa bar and made her career as a college educator and administrator. Even though there was an Iowa state law restricting the bar exam to males, Ms. Mansfield attained her degree with high scores. Iowa amended its licensing statute and became the first state to accept women and minorities into its bar. By being the first official female lawyer in the US, she definitely is part of the 10 female lawyers who shaped the American law.
Charlotte E. Ray, married name Charlotte E. Fraim, was an American teacher and the first African American female lawyer in the United States. Ray studied at the Institution for the Education of Colored Youth in Washington, D.C.. Moreover, by 1869 she was already teaching at Howard University, DC. There she studied law, obtaining her degree in 1872. Her admission that year to the District of Columbia bar made her the first woman admitted to practice in D.C., and the first African American female lawyer in the United States.
In 1910, Lyda Burton Conley became the first Native American female lawyer in America. As part of the 10 female lawyers who shaped the American law, Conley protected her tribe’s cemetery burial land located in Huron Park Indian Cemetery (Kansas City, Kansas) from being sold. Unfortunately, she lost her case, and the United States Supreme Court refused to rehear it. But that was not the main point. Conley raised public support up to the point that the House of Representatives Indian Affairs committee finally banned desecration of the cemetery in 1912.
Sandra Day was born in El Paso, Texas in 1930. She earned her law degree from Stanford in 1952. She also served two terms in the Arizona state senate. Sandra Day O’Connor worked her way through the legal system as an attorney and ultimately a judge. In 1981 (two years after winning election to the Arizona Court of Appeals), President Reagan appointed her to the United States Supreme Court. She became the first woman justice to serve on the Supreme Court in its 191-year history. She served for twenty-four years, until her retirement in 2006.
We can’t just say that there were only 7 female lawyers who shaped the American law. There are other characters such as Genevieve Rose cline, who was the first woman federal judge in America, nominated in 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge to the U.S. Customs Court, where she served for twenty-five years. Or Janet Reno who was the first female United States Attorney General in the US history. Regardless of your opinion towards this list, it is important to recognize your fellow female colleagues on March 8th, their day, but most importantly, every single day.