Women of the Law

Marcia Greenberger, one of the 2015 Inductees into the National Women's Hall of Fame, hadn't intended to go to law school. When her college friends told her they were going, she decided to go, too -- and we are thankful that she took that path. Greenberger, the founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center, was the first full-time women's rights legal advocate in Washington, D.C. A recognized expert on sex discrimination and the law, her efforts have been pivotal to the passage of legislation protecting the rights of women. In this column, we will learn about the accomplishments of some other pioneering women in the law, all of whom have been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Match the woman with her accomplishment:

____ 1. The first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court.
____ 2. The first woman to become a chief judge on a Federal Court.
____ 3. The first African-American Congresswoman from the Deep South.
____ 4. Her application to be admitted to the Illinois bar in 1869 was denied because she was a woman.

A. Florence Allen
B. Barbara Jordan
C. Sandra Day O'Connor
D. Myra Bradwell

In 1868, it was unusual for a woman to be a lawyer. Myra Bradwell did not adhere to convention. She published the Chicago Legal News but was rejected by the bar because she was a woman in spite of having passed the Illinois Bar Exam with high honors. She appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court which upheld the ban in Bradwell v. Illinois by stating: "The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many occupations of civil life...The paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign office of wife and mother. This is the law of the creator." When professions were opened to women in Illinois, she was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Illinois Supreme Court in 1892, retroactive to her initial application in 1869.

A woman of many firsts in the law, Florence Allen campaigned for women's suffrage as well as serving as a pioneer and role model. Those firsts include the first woman prosecutor for a county (1919), first woman elected to a judgeship, first woman to sit on a state supreme court (1922), first woman to sit on any Federal bench of generation jurisdiction (1934), first woman in the nation to become a chief judge on a Federal Court. Regarded as one of the most distinguished jurists in the U.S., Allen opened many doors in the legal profession that had previously been closed to women.

Attorney Barbara Jordan's statue in the Austin, Texas airport is a testament to the regard in which she is held by the populace of the state of Texas. The first African-American woman to serve in the Texas State Senate, she was also the first African-American Congresswoman to be elected - and re-elected - from the Deep South. She captured nationwide attention during the 1974 Nixon impeachment hearings and in 1976, became the first woman and first African American to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. After she left the Congress, she was a professor at the University of Texas at Austin in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Unable to find work after graduating third in her class from Stanford University's Law School because of her gender, Sandra Day O'Connor worked without pay for a California county attorney in order to get experience. After returning from overseas, she established her own successful practice in Arizona, as law firms would not hire her. In 1965, she was named assistant attorney general for the state of Arizona. After being named to fill a vacancy in the Arizona State Senate, she successfully was re-elected to two terms and served as the Senate Majority Leader. After her election to several courts in Arizona, President Ronald Reagan named her the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981. She served for 24 years.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These pioneering women of the law are profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. They changed the world. We are proud to stand on their shoulders and appreciate and benefit from all of their efforts.

(Answers 1-C, 2-A, 3-B, 4-D )