Wednesday, February 15, 2012

This Day in History Belva A. Lockwood

Through the efforts of Belva Ann Lockwood (1830 – 1917), on February 15, 1879, a law (20 Stat. 292 (1879)) was passed that allowed women for the first time to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States:

In her meticulously researched book, Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President (2007), author Jill Norgren shares Lockwood's inspirational story.

Lockwood started her career as a teacher, but was always drawn to law and politics.

Around the age of 40, Lockwood was invited to attend classes at National University Law School in Washington, D.C. (which later merged with George Washington University; see GWU Encyclopedia entry for Belva Ann Lockwood) and shortly thereafter enrolled, earning her degree in 1873. She fought for the right to receive her diploma, and to join the D.C. Bar.

But she wanted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. After many years of persistent lobbying, on February 15, 1879 An Act to Relieve Certain Legal Disabilities of Women was passed by the 45th Congress and signed into law by President Hayes. In March 1879, Lockwood took the oath and became the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

You can find Norgren’s book, Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President (2007) in the Classified Stacks at KF368 .L58 .N67.

To learn more about Lockwood, see Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Remarks on the Life and Times of Belva Lockwood Supreme Court Fellows Dinner January 24, 2008, 37 Sw. U. L. Rev. 371 (2008).

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