Rebels at the Bar: The Fascinating, Forgotten Stories of America S First Women Lawyers

Overview


"I read these stories of the first generation of women lawyers with awe and gratitude. We are all in their debt—and in Jill Norgren's, too, for recovering this forgotten history."
—Linda Greenhouse, Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph M. Goldstein Senior Fellow, Yale Law School

In Rebels at the Bar, prize-winning legal historian Jill Norgren recounts the life stories of a small group of nineteenth century women who were among the first female attorneys in the United States. Beginning in the ...

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Rebels at the Bar: The Fascinating, Forgotten Stories of America's First Women Lawyers

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Overview


"I read these stories of the first generation of women lawyers with awe and gratitude. We are all in their debt—and in Jill Norgren's, too, for recovering this forgotten history."
—Linda Greenhouse, Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph M. Goldstein Senior Fellow, Yale Law School

In Rebels at the Bar, prize-winning legal historian Jill Norgren recounts the life stories of a small group of nineteenth century women who were among the first female attorneys in the United States. Beginning in the late 1860s, these determined rebels pursued the radical ambition of entering the then all-male profession of law. They were motivated by a love of learning. They believed in fair play and equal opportunity. They desired recognition as professionals and the ability to earn a good living.

Through a biographical approach, Norgren presents the common struggles of eight women first to train and to qualify as attorneys, then to practice their hard-won professional privilege. Their story is one of nerve, frustration, and courage. This first generation practiced civil and criminal law, solo and in partnership. The women wrote extensively and lobbied on the major issues of the day, but the professional opportunities open to them had limits. They never had the opportunity to wear the black robes of a judge. They were refused entry into the lucrative practices of corporate and railroad law.Although male lawyers filled legislatures and the Foreign Service, presidents refused to appoint these early women lawyers to diplomatic offices and the public refused to elect them to legislatures.

Rebels at the Bar expands our understanding of both women’s rights and the history of the legal profession in the nineteenth century. It focuses on the female renegades who trained in law and then, like men, fought considerable odds to create successful professional lives. In this engaging and beautifully written book, Norgren shares her subjects’ faith in the art of the possible. In so doing, she ensures their place in history.

Jill Norgren is Professor Emerita of Political Science at John Jay College, and the Graduate Center of The City University of New York. She is the award winning author of many articles and books, including Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President ( NYU Press, 2007); The Cherokee Cases; and American Cultural Pluralism and Law (with Serena Nanda).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Intriguing and enriching, Norgren’s book on the first generation of women lawyers in America offers an in-depth look at the careers of eight notable women. Taking place largely over the last quarter of the 19th century, these women, determined and resourceful, educated themselves and lobbied courts and legislatures and law schools for admittance to the practice. Norgren (Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President), professor emerita of political science at the City University of New York’s John Jay College, introduces readers to Myra Bradwell, who after being refused at the Illinois bar, created the Chicago Legal News, and advocated for women’s rights on its editorial page. Meanwhile, Mary Hall, who avoided conflict, only wanted to perform office work and didn’t want to enter a courtroom. The chapter on Clara Foltz is the book’s highlight, detailing the life of a fascinating wanderlust-driven woman with a louse of a husband and five children. Foltz moved all over the West, practicing, lecturing, and advocating while raising a family on her own. Norgren sticks largely to documentation, leaving historical analysis for a short epilogue; character analyses gets short shrift as well. Though the book can lag, this intersection of legal and feminist history is unquestionably inspiring. Agent: Cecelia Cancellaro. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

"Intriguing and enriching, Norgren’s book on the first generation of women lawyers in America offers an in-depth look at the careers of eight notable women...this intersection of legal and feminist history is unquestionably inspiring."-Publishers Weekly,

"In this pathbreaking account, Rebels at the Bar enlarges our understanding of women’s entrance to the legal profession. With telling detail and lively prose, Jill Norgren profiles the courage, resilience, and challenges of America’s first women lawyers. This is a compelling story and essential reading for anyone interested in women’s role in legal history."-Deborah L. Rhode,Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

"I read these stories of the first generation of women lawyers with awe and gratitude. We are all in their debt—and in Jill Norgren's, too, for recovering this forgotten history."-Linda Greenhouse,Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph M. Goldstein Senior Fellow, Yale Law School

"Bold, brave women with musical old-fashioned names—Myra, Clara, Belva, Lelia, Lavinia—are among the subjects of this lively and readable account of the first women lawyers. Some were famous in their times, but all were forgotten until recently when female attorneys started seeking their history, and found a Boswell in Jill Norgren."-Barbara Babcock,Judge John Crown Professor of Law, Emerita, Stanford Law School

Library Journal
Norgren (political science, emerita, John Jay Coll., CUNY; Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President) here tells the stories of America's first female attorneys and the obstacles they faced in educating themselves, being admitted to practice law, and launchning their careers. She begins by exploring the legal situation of women in the United States at the end of the Civil War, when activists hoped that women would gain the right to vote. The author then discusses the laws that kept women from owning property and the prevailing attitudes that kept them out of the legal profession, among other careers. Women's suffrage, civil rights, and social justice are common themes in the lives of each of the figures Norgren profiles. She does an admirable job of depicting the prevailing culture of the times and the ways these lawyers were able to transcend it. VERDICT Shedding light on a little-known chapter of American history and the women who blazed the trail for today's attorneys, this will be most enjoyed by students of history, women's studies, and law, along with interested general readers. Recommended for public, school, and small college libraries.—Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814758625
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2013
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 575,086
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jill Norgren is Professor Emerita of Political Science at John Jay College, and the Graduate Center of The City University of New York. She is the award winning author of many articles and books, including Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President (NYU Press, 2007); The Cherokee Cases; and American Cultural Pluralism and Law (with Serena Nanda).

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