Early Women Lawyers in Illinois Discussion/Jan & April 1997

***Editor Note: This discussion addresses two similar queries, one submitted in Jan 1997, the other in April 1997********

Query From Nora Cannon (X-Posted from H-Law) ncannon@mail.state.tn.us 07 April 1997

I am seeking information on women practicing law in the United States between 1850 and the end of the Civil War. I am aware of several women who entered practice in 1869 - (Mary E. Magoon (Iowa), Belle Babb Mansfield (Iowa), and Myra Colby Bradwell (illinois/interesting litigation). Has anyone come across this trivia in the course of more scholarly pursuits? All information gratefully received.

Query from Gwen McNamee gmcnam1@uic.edu 27 Jan 1997

The 125th anniversary of the first Illinois woman lawyer will take place in 1998. To celebrate, the Chicago Bar Association and the Chicago Public Library will hold an exhibit at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago March 1-May 17, 1998. Part of the exhibit will include information on the first 100 Illinois women lawyers. Many of these women have ties far beyond Illinois and many are already well-known (Myra Colby Bradwell, Ada Miser Kepley and Florence Kelley, to name a few). However, we are finding the lives of almost half of these women are hard to trace. We know that some of them moved to other states after receiving a law degree from three Illinois law schools which admitted women (Union College of Law, now Northwestern U. Law School; Chicago College of Law, now ITT-Chicago Kent College of Law; and Illinois Wesleyan, also known as the Bloomington Law School.

Listed below are the women on whom we have not been able to find much information. [These women] were admitted to the Illinois Bar between 1873 and 1901. In anyone has any information on any of them, or ideas on where to look, we would be very grateful!

***Group One-We have no idea where to look: Colton, Abbey S. : admitted to Illinois Bar 15 Jan 1877

Lusk, Louisa: admitted IL either 11 Jan or 11 June 1881 in Pike County; Dollarhide, Josephine S. : admitted IL 11 Jan 1892 Shepard, Laura: admitted IL 14 May 1884 in Nashville, IL (Washington County)
Curtis or Curtiss, Bertha E.: grad Union College of Law, admitted IL 12 June 1889 in Cook County; died 3 April 1953 Bauman, Emma Josephine H. : grad Chicago College of Law; admitted IL 21 Oct 1890; worked for law firm Hatch & Ritsher in Chicago up until 1901, then disappeared from city records.
Starr, Louisa M. : grad Union Coll; admitted IL 9 June 1891 Knapp, Sarah M. or N. : admitted IL 22 Oct 1891 in Whiteside County Albright, Alice M.: grad Northwestern; admitted IL 14 June 1892 in Cook County
Dennert, Louisa: admitted IL 16 March 1892. Marcoot, Lois: admitted IL 14 June 1892 in St. Clair County Elliot, Minerva K.:admitted IL 15 June 1893 in Cook County Corrington, S. Emma or Emma S.: admitted IL 15 June 1894 in Greene County Dent, Linda A.:admitted IL 29 March 1895 in Cook County Embrey, Mrs. Florence E.: grad Kent; admitted IL 6 June 1895 in Cook County; married law school classmate. Practiced patent law. Shunt, Margaret Tailor: admitted to IL 21 November 1895 in Sangamon County Bowen, J. Pyle AKA Squire, Mary E.: grad Kent; admitted IL 10 June 1896; grew up in Houston, Texas and sold real estate there before entering law school. She graduated w/honors and announced intention to return to Texas, but is possible she stayed in Illinois. In 1905 Bowen notified the State Bar she had changed her name to Mary E. Squire [Mary Esquire...as in Atty-At-Law].
Tremaine, Mildred Elwell: grad Chicago Coll; admitted IL 10 June 1896 (also attended Oberlin); contributed articles to popular magazines focusing on dress reform for women.
Cork, Edith May: admitted IL 7 May 1897 in Lee County, Dixon City Reiley, Belle Brandon: admitted IL 5 June 1897 Heighway, Victoria A. Desalliond: grad(as Desalliond) from Kent; admitted IL 16 June 1897. Practiced in Chicago for Shope, Mathis and Barrett for a time; married Gavin H. Heighway. Appears she died prior to 1913. In that year, husband and children were living in Ontario, Canada. Blood, Mary (or Emma): admitted IL 4 Nov 1897 in Mt. Vernon, Jefferson County
Kearns, Helen:admitted IL 4 Nov 1897, listed as both Mt. Vernon and Chicago Rapp, Carrie Libby: admitted IL 4 November 1897 in Rockford, Winnebago County
Hallam, Minnie Maud: admitted IL 15 February 1898 in Warren County Funk, Mrs. Antoinette L.: admitted IL 15 Oct 1898 in MacLean County; leader of the IL Equal Suffrage League as late as 1913, when she delivered speech at annual convention of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Assoc. on how the IESL and other suffrage groups had won the landmark "presidential suffrage" law that year in Illinois.[see Genevieve McBride's_On Wisconsin Women_(UW Press,1993) p.246.
Helmich, Isabel (or Isabelle): grad Kent; admitted IL 15 October 1898 Powers, Minnie Ross: admitted IL 22 February 1899 in LaSalle County Power, May F.: grad Kent; admitted IL 14 October 1899; studied at some point w/John Power, atty in Chicago, relationship unclear. Breese,Clara J.: admitted IL 7 June 1900 in Cook County Graham, Agnes A.; admitted IL 7 June 1900 in Cook County Chatfield, Bertha: admitted IL 12 October 1900 in Kankakee County Reid, Isabelle H.:admitted 12 October 1900 in Cook County Ketchum, Margaret A.: admitted IL 15 October 1901 in Quincy, Adams County Frahm, Hattie Belle: admitted IL 15 October 1901 in Douglas County

***Group Two--Moved to New York
Little, Mrs. Mabelle Thatcher: grad Northwestern; admitted IL 11 January 1895 in Cook County. DOB 25 December, 1867, raised in Chicago. After law school she lived in River Forest,IL for a time and then moved to NY City. Her address was Apt.737 West 2nd St. Died in Chicago(?) 6 May, 1913. Reynolds, Eva May: grad Chicago Coll; admitted IL 10 June 1896; worked in Chicago for legal author James P. Andrews, then moved sometime before 1912 to NY City; had offices in NY first at 60 Wall St, and then 19 Cedar St, Manhattan. Member of the Women's Law Assoc, and contributed articles for the Women's Law Journal. Moved to Indianapolis in November 1916. Rawson, Marie L: grad Northwestern; admitted IL 14 October 1899 in Cook County. Married and became M.L.Wood. Moved to NY prior to 1919. Address listed as 125 E. 24th, Ny, NY. Died 06 Dec 1967.

***Group Three--Probably stayed in Illinois

Merrill, Alice D.: grad Union Coll; admitted IL 13 June 1878; died June 1958; last known address in 1906 at 3555 Prairie Ave, Chicago,IL. Bartlett, Mrs. Phebe M.; grad Union Coll; admitted IL 1880; worked for some time for Judge Van H. Higgins in Chicago. Strawn, Emma: admitted IL 9 June 1885 in Springfield, IL; practiced in Lacon, IL for some time.
Tibbitts, Mrs. Flora V. Woodward: grad Union Coll; admitted IL 10 June 1890; believed to have practiced in Chicago for a time. Palmer, Nora: grad Kent; admitted IL 6 June 1895. A teacher in Chicago until 1914, then stenographer, and clerk for Nat'l Bank of the Republic. Disappears 1923 from records.
Davis, Jessie L.:grad Kent; admitted IL 10 June 1896; intended to practice in Chicago, but no records have been found.

***Group Four--Moved to California
Henderson, Effie: DOB 29 October 1859 in Towanda, IL to Franklin & Sarah (Metcalf) Henderson.; grad Wesleyan;admitted IL 1892; practiced law in Bloomington, IL until 1903, moved to Long Beach, California; Continued practice
of real estate and business law for many years. Died in her home in Long Beach 5 February 1938.
Vermilyea, Minerva A. Doyle:born in 1866; grad Union Coll; admitted IL 1889; practiced in Watseka, IL w/firm of Doyle, Morris and Doyle. Moved w/her husband, Samuel E. Vermilyea to Los angeles, Calif; we do not know her date of death, but Samuel died January 1934 in Los Angeles. Kenney, Elizabeth L.; grad Northwestern; admitted IL 1897; never married; practiced in IL for short time, moved to CA sometime before 1909; practiced in Los Angeles area many decades; office address in 1909 was 301 L.A. Trust Bldg.;had a sister in L.a., Helen Kenney Mayer. Died 26 January 1965. Last known address was 1744 Canyon Dr., Hollywood,CA.

***Group Five --Moved to England
Brown, Mary Kennedy: admitted IL 15 Jan 1894 in Cook County; married Lieut. Bosworth Smith and moved to England.

Responses:
>From Genevieve G McBride gmcbride@csd.uwm.edu 28 Jan 1997

Antoinette L. Funk was still in Illinois and a leader of the Illinois Equal Suffrage League as late as 1913, when she came north to speak at the annual convention of the Wisconsin Woman Suffrage Association on how the IESL and other suffrage groups had won the landmark "presidential suffrage" law that year in Illinois, the first state east of the Mississippi River in which women could vote for president. She apparently was the detail type behind Ellen Henrotin and others in the extraordinary lobbying effort; Funk spoke to Wisconsin women on the day-to-day drudgery of researching legislators which was ( and is!) so crucial to such campaigns. There is a paragraph in my _On Wisconsin Women_(UW Press, 1993), p.246, which is from the newspaper column by the president of the WWSA at the time; if you need the full text of the source I have it and can send it to you. ...I'll try to find time to cross-reference a few more[of the names] for you soon. Best of luck on your project...

>From Catherine B. Cleary cleary@omnifest.uwm.edu 08 April, 1997 ...The most comprehensive book on early women lawyers I know is Karen Berger Morello's _The Invisible Bar: The Woman Lawyer in American: 1638 to Present (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988). In that book on page 37 is a list of the first women admitted to the bar in each state---but these are women admitted at the state level--for example Belle Babb Mansfield in Iowa in 1869. The book also refers to Mary E. Magoon who was practising in Iowa but apparently was not admitted to the bar by the Iowa Supreme Court. I was unsuccessful several years ago in finding out more about her. Any women practising before the Civil War would have been admitted only at the local level and these are hard to find. In Wisconsin Lavinia Goodell is listed as the first woman lawyer---Morello is wrong in listing Elsie Bottensek. She did NOT graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1875 as I finally proved to the Law School several years ago. Her *husband* was in the class of 1875. Lavinia Goodell was admitted to the Rock County bar in Janesville, Wisconsin in 1874. When she applied to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for admission, she was turned down. It is worth reading the court's opinion by Chief Justice Ryan. IN RE Goodell, 39 Wis.232(1875). She got the statute changed and was admitted by the Supreme Court in 1879 (48 Wis. 696). This is all covered in an article I wrote for the "Wisconsin Magazine of History" (Summer 1991). The real point is that the only women who would have been in practice before the Civil War would not have been admitted to the state bar and so they are very hard to find.

>From Genevieve G McBride gmcbride@csd.uwm.edu 09 April 1997

...I cannot recommend too highly Catherine's article on Wisconsin's earliest woman lawyer. On early laws on women, allow me to also recommend her later article on the evolution of married women's property rights law. Both were award-winners as articles of the year (1991 and 1993) in the Wisconsin Magazine of History. Also see the UW law school magazine of a few years ago for a reprint of her commencement speech which clarified, at last, the place of Belle Case La Follette in UW law school history.


Return to H-Women Home Page.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]