Bari Burke

Sisters-in-Law/Then&Now: “THE BONNET OR NOT THE BONNET?”

In 1888, in a letter to her female law colleagues in the Equity Club, Lelia Josephine Robinson said,       “One problem is not yet settled entirely to my satisfaction, and that is: Shall the woman attorney wear her hat when arguing a case or making a motion in court, or shall she remove it?"  Why the interest in bonnets, such a seeming trifle for women who had the fortitude to become lawyers in the late nineteenth century? The bonnet question, however, raised a much more weighty query confronting early women lawyers – “how to be at once a lady and a…

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Bari Burke

Sisters-in-Law/Then and Now—“The Petticoat Element—Women’s Entry Into Law Schools”

Imagine that you are  woman who wanted to study, and maybe even practice, law in the late nineteenth century.  No one in your family is a lawyer.  What might you learn from newspaper articles about life as a female law student?  What stories might you find? First some background: In the late nineteenth century, neither the legal profession nor the study of law was particularly welcoming to women.  Law was the profession most inhospitable to women; in 1870, there were five women lawyers and 40,731 male attorneys in the United States.  And a little more background: An aspiring lawyer could…

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Bari Burke

Sisters-in-Law/Then and Now—“Can I Be a Lawyer?” - Advice in Historical Newspapers

“Can I Be a Lawyer?”:   Advice in Historical Newspapers “I would like to know if there is still any very strong prejudice against the woman lawyer?  Is she at a great disadvantage?  Could I expect the sort of future my brother, were he to follow the law, would have a right to expect?”      B.F.L., a high school girl, to Miss Jessie Roberts, “The Girl’s Job:  Can I Be A Lawyer?” Idaho Statesman 1/27/1917 *        *        *        *        *        *        * During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, newspapers contained an abundance of…

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