Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Berger on Connecticut's First Woman Lawyer

Matthew Berger, an attorney in private practice in New London, CT, has published an article about Connecticut's first woman lawyer: Mary Hall: The Decision and the Lawyer, 79 Connecticut Bar Journal 29 (2005). The article will be posted on the Stanford Women's Legal History Website, but is not yet on-line. You can get a copy from Mr. Berger. For his contact info, go here and scroll down. Here's his abstract:
In 1882 the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors became the first court in the United States to hold that a woman could practice law (In Re Hall, 50 Conn. 131). Expressly rejecting the holding of Bradwell v. State of Illinois, 83 U.S. 130, 21 L.Ed. 442 (1872), the decision allowed Mary Hall to become Connecticut's first woman lawyer, who then went on to practice until her death in 1927. Matthew Berger, a sole practitioner and trained historian in New London Connecticut explains the decision in context, and provides a brief overview of the struggle of women to be admitted the the bar, and a detailed biography of Mary Hall.

1 comment:

Jill Norgren said...

Regarding Matthew Berger's article, "Mary Hall: The Decision and the Lawyer," describing the 1882 Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors decision holding that a woman could practice law: Berger writes that this (state) court was the first in the United States to so hold. I would like to add that the U.S. Supreme Court had, three years earlier in March 1879, admitted Washington, D.C. attorney Belva Lockwood to its bar, an action taken only after Congress had passed rights-granting legislation, "An act to relieve certain legal disabilities of women." This legislation left the high court no choice but to begin admitting women. On a split vote, the Supreme Court had denied Lockwood admission in 1876. See Norgren, "Before It Was Merely Difficult: Belva Lockwood's Life in Law and Politics,"Journal of Supreme Court History (1999); Norgren, "Blazing the Trail for Women in Law," Prologue (Spring 2005), online at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/spring/index.html?template=print ; and the forthcoming Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President (New York University Press, March 2007).

Jill Norgren
Professor of Government, Emerita, John Jay College and Graduate Center, The City University of New York