Outside the Law

Becca Anderson (author of The Book of Awesome Women) takes us down memory lane, remembering the battle women fought to be heard and given rights.

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Photo by cottonbro on pexels.com

Women had a long journey to gain entry to the courtroom. Here are some of the important steps along the way:

  • The first known woman lawyer ever was a Babylonian who brought suit against her husband’s brother, pleaded her own case, and won—in 550 B.C.!
  • Biblical plaintiffs Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tizra were five sisters who tried to fight the unfair treatment they were receiving after their father’s death In Numbers 27:1-8, they waxed eloquent, “Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.” The judge, in this case God, ruled in their favor according to his spokesperson Moses, “The inheritance of their father (was) to pass unto them… If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.”
  • In 1239, Bettista Gozzadini sat in the juridical chair at the University of Bologna, highly unusual for the Dark Ages.
  • America’s first lawyer was Margaret Brent, one of the largest landholders in colonial Maryland and the most active attorney of her day; her name is in the court records 124 times for the years 1642 to 1650!
  • Among Belva’s contemporaries, Arabella Mansfield, in June 1869, became the first woman in the United States to be admitted to the bar, but for reasons we don’t know (but can easily guess) never practiced. Ada H. Kepley was the first American woman to actually receive a law degree—from Union College in 1870.
  • In the 1860s, Myra Colby Bradwell tried to get into the legal profession, but was barred, even by the Illinois Supreme Court, who stated “this step…would mean…that it is in harmony with the Constitution and laws that women should be made governors, judges, and sheriffs.” Myra tried to take it higher, but the appeal didn’t get off the ground. Such a hue and cry erupted over Myra’s case, the state of Illinois passed a law in 1872 forbidding sex discrimination in employment. Bradwell gained admittance to the bar in 1890, but by then was more interested in her new profession—working full time for women’s civil rights!
  • Charlotte Ray was the first black woman in America to be allowed to practice law in 1872, but couldn’t because of threats from bigots.

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.


The Book of Awesome Women

Boundary Breakers, Freedom Fighters, Sheroes & Female Firsts

Super women as female role models. From the foremothers who blazed trails and broke barriers, to today’s women warriors from sports, science, cyberspace, city hall, the lecture hall, and the silver screen, The Book of Awesome Women paints 200 portraits of powerful and inspiring role models for women and girls poised to become super women of the future. Discover some of the most awesome women known to history while celebrating the greatness of females all over!

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