History

  • 1648 – First women lawyer in America – Margaret Brent (Maryland)
  • 1848 – Declaration of the Rights of Women (Seneca Falls)
  • 1869 – First women admitted to law school:
    • Washington University in St. Louis – Lemma Barkaloo and Phoebe Wilson Couzins

      • Ms. Couzins graduated in 1871 and the University’s website reports she became the 4th woman admitted to the practice of law in the U.S.
      • Ms. Barbaloo became Missouri’s first attorney; however, she attended the Washington University for only one year and took the Missouri bar in 1870 without completing law school.
  • Howard University – Charlotte E. Ray (graduated 1872 and became the first African American woman admitted to the bar)
  • 1869 – First woman admitted to practice law – Arabella Mansfield in Iowa (Ms. Mansfield is sometimes called “Bella Mansfield”)
  • 1870 – First woman to graduate from law school – Ada H. Kepley, of Illinois, graduated from the Union College of Law in Chicago (which is now Northwestern University).
  • 1870 – First woman judge appointed in U.S. – Hon. Esther McQuigg Morris, Justice of the Peace, South Pass City, Wyoming
  • 1872 – First African American woman admitted to the bar – Charlotte E. Ray (District of Columbia)
  • 1872 – University of Michigan and Boston University admit women to their law schools
  • 1878 – Hastings Law School admits women (after losing a law school about female admissions)
  • 1879 – First woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court – Belva Lockwood. (She had to sue the Court for permission.)
  • 1873 – U.S. Supreme Court affirms decision by Supreme Court of Illinois to deny Myra Bradwell admission to the Illinois State Bar (Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. 130, 141-42 (1873)).
  • 1875 – Wisconsin Supreme Court denies Lavinia Goodell admission to the state bar
  • 1883 – First woman to hold both a medical degree and a law degree – Carrie Burnham Kilgore (received New York Medical Degree in 1865 & admitted to privileges at Bellevue Hospital; received LL.B. from Penn State University School of Law in 1883)
  • 1887 – Buffalo Law School admits women
  • 1888 – First woman admitted to practice law in Hawaii (while Hawaii was still a monarchy) – Almeda Hitchcock
  • 1888 – New York University admits women to attend law classes as part of its Graduate School of Arts and Science. (One of its graduates – Stanleyetta Titus – became the first woman admitted to the bar in NYS.)
  • 1896 – First law school for women established – Washington College of Law (District of Columbia); this school is now known as American University Washington College of Law. (Some references indicate that classes actually started in 1898.)
  • 1899 – “Women Lawyers Club” established in New York City by 18 women denied admission to other bar associations; organization renamed in 1908 to “Association of Women Lawyers,” and in 1923 to “National Association of Women Lawyers” (NAWL)
  • 1893 – First woman lawyer admitted to the New York State Bar – Stanleyetta Titus (graduation of NYU Law School)
  • 1900 – First woman admitted to practice law in the Hawaii federal court – Elizabeth Hayes Ryan
  • 1906 – First woman to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court – Belva Lockwood
  • 1908 – Portia Law School established in Boston (all female student body); this school is now called the New England School of Law
  • 1910 – First Native American woman admitted to the bar – Lyda Burton Conley (Kansas)
  • 1911 – Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association established (first “women’s bar association” in New York State)
  • 1918 – First women admitted to the American Bar Association – Mary B. Grossman of Cleveland and Mary Florence Lathrop of Denver
  • 1918 – Fordham University School of Law and Yale University School of Law admit women
  • 1919 – Columbia University School of Law admits women
  • 1919 – First woman full-time law professor appointed – Barbara Nachtrieb Armstrong, LL.B., Ph.D., at the University of California at Berkeley
  • 1920 – Ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote
  • 1922 – First woman elected to a state Supreme Court – Hon. Florence Ellinwood Allen (also first Federal Court Judge in 1934)
  • 1923 – Northeastern University School of Law (in Boston) admits women
  • 1924 – First woman hired by a Wall Street law firm – Catherine Noyes Lee (Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft)
  • 1926 – First African American Woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court – Violette Neatly Anderson
  • 1933 – First woman President of Federal Bar Association – Marguerite Rawalt
  • 1934 – First woman Federal Court Judge – Hon. Florence Ellinwood Allen
  • 1934 – New York Women’s Bar Association (NYWBA) established by six women attorneys who were denied admission to other bar associations (NYWBA incorporated in 1935)
  • 1942 – First Asian woman admitted to practice in Hawaii – Sau Ung Loo Chan
  • 1943 – First woman member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates – Marguerite Rawalt
  • 1943 – First woman appointed to the position of federal prosecutor in New York State – Hon. Florence Perlow Shientag (Assistant U.S. Attorney, Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York); Judge Shientag was also a founder of the New York Women’s Bar Association in 1934, served as Law Secretary to Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, and later served as a Family Court Judge in New York City)
  • 1944 – First woman partner at a Wall Street law firm – Soia Mentschikoff (Spence, Windels, Walser, Hotchkiss & Angell; firm name changed in the following year to Spencer, Hotchkiss, Parker & Duryee) (She was also the first woman to teach at Harvard Law School)
  • 1944 – First woman to serve as a Law Clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court – Lucille Lomen
  • 1950 – Harvard University School of Law admits women
  • 1951 – First woman appointed as Dean of an accredited U.S. law school – Miriam Theresa Rooney (Seton Hall University School of Law; notably, 1951 was also the first year that Seton Hall had a law school)
  • 1951 – First African American woman full-time professor at an accredited law school – Sybil Jones Dedmond (North Carolina Central University School of Law)
  • 1953 – First Japanese American woman admitted to the bar in Hawaii – Patsy (Matsu Takemoto) Mink (later became the first Asian American elected to the U.S. Congress)
  • 1962 – First African American woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court – Hon. Constance Baker Motley (later became the first African American woman to serve as a federal judge)
  • 1965 – Title VII of Civil Rights Act enacted, which (among other provisions) added “sex” as a grounds for discrimination complaints for the first time; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established with power to enforce Title VII
  • 1965 – First woman appointed a Chief Judge of a state Supreme Court – Hon. Lorna Lockwood (Arizona)
  • 1966 – FIrst African American woman appointed to the federal bench – Hon. Constance Baker Motley (U.S.D.J, S.D.N.Y) (Judge Motley was also the first woman to serve as New York City Borough President and the first African American woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, where she prevailed on 9 of the 10 cases she argued.)
  • 1966-1967 – University of Notre Dame School of Law admits women
  • 1979 – National Association of Women Judges established
  • 1980 – Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) established.
    • Local Women’s Bar Associations from across New York State that were previously independent joined together to form WBASNY, with Joan Ellenbogen (past President of the New York Women’s Bar Association) as the First WBASNY President.
    • WBASNY remains one of only three statewide bar associations in New York State (the other two are the New York State Bar Association and New York State Trial Lawyers Association.)
    • Ms. Ellenbogen was the first lesbian in the nation to head a statewide bar association.
  • 1980 – First woman (and first Asian) appointed to the federal bench in Hawaii – Hon. Marie Nakanishi Milks (U.S.D.J., D. Hawaii), later became first Circuit Court Judge (U.S.Ct of Appeals, Ninth Circuit)
  • 1981 – First woman appointed to serve as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court – Hon. Sandra Day O’Connor
  • 1983 – First woman appointed to New York’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals – Hon. Judith Kaye; she later became the first female Chief Judge of the NY Court of Appeals, and she presided over the first Court of Appeals bench with a female majority of judges.
  • 1984 – First woman to run for the position of Vice President of the United States – New York attorney Geraldine Ferraro
  • 1985 – First woman appointed to the bench of an Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court – Hon. Betty Weinberg Ellerin (App. Div., First Dep’t) (later served as first female Presiding Justice)
  • 1988 – First African American woman on appointed to a state’s highest court – Hon. Juanita Kidd Stout (Supreme Court of Pennsylvania)
  • 1989 – First woman appointed to serve as the Presiding Justice of an Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division – Hon. Betty Weinberg Ellerin (P.J, App. Div., First Dep’t)
  • 1991 – First state with a majority of women on its highest court – Minnesota Supreme Court
  • 1992 – First Latinas appointed to the federal bench in the continental U.S.:
    • Hon. Sonia Sotomayor (U.S.D.J., S.D.N.Y.) – Judge Sotomayor was the first Hispanic (man or woman) appointed to the federal bench in New York, and she went on to serve as a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and is now an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
    • Hon. Irma Gonzalez (U.S.D.J, S.D. Calif.) – Judge Gonzalez was first Mexican-American woman to serve as a federal judge, and she later served as Chief Judge of the S.D. Calif.
  • 1993 – First woman to serve as Attorney General of the United States – Janet Reno
  • 1995 – First woman President of the American Bar Association – Roberta Cooper Ramo
  • 1998 – First Japanese American woman appointed to the federal bench in the nation – Hon. Susan Mollway (U.S.D.J, D. Hawaii)
  • 2011 – First woman appointed to the federal bench in the Northern District of New York – Hon. Mae A. D’Agostino (U.S.D.J, N.D.N.Y)
  • 2012 – First Filipino American (man or woman) appointed to the federal bench – Hon. Lorna Schofield (U.S.D.J., S.D.N.Y)
  • 2013 – First woman appointed to the federal bench in the Western District of New York – Hon. Elizabeth A. Wolford (U.S.D.J, W.D.N.Y)
  • 2013 – First African American woman appointed to New York State’s highest court – Hon. Sheila Abdus-Salaam (New York Court of Appeals)