Archive for ‘Bradwell’

March 21, 2011

A Closer Look at Bradwell v. Illinois

by Angela N. Johnson

Gwen Howerr Jordan’s article “Horror of a Woman” is extremley insightful in that it delves deep into the legal reasoning and procedure in the Bradwell v. Illinois case.  Moreover, Jordan’s article reveals an important insight that challenges modern interpretations of Bradwell v. Illinois, suggesting that Justice Bradley’s infamous concurring opinion in which he supports continued separate spheres was perhaps not the dominant ideology of the day (Jordan 2009, 1202).  According to Jordan, the opinion’s endorsement of the separate spheres argument was not as widely and uncritically accepted as Justice Bradley implied at the time of the Bradwell court decision.  Moreover, when looking at the Bradwell case (and the actions of Myra Bradwell, herself), this context allows the modern day reader to view the case as a strategy used to pursue women’s emancipation and equality under the Fourteenth Amendment, including the ability of women to enter the public sphere.  Bradwell used her case to advance women’s rights beyond opening the legal profession to women by arguing the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause should be applied to women and the Privileges and Immunities Clause barred sex-discrimination in employment. Though Bradwell’s fight did not end in a grand victory, “Bradwell was ultimately admitted to both the Illinois and the Supreme Court Bars.  By 1950 every state in the Union admitted women lawyers.  In 1971 the Supreme Court began using the Equal Protection Clause to strike down sex discrimination” (Jordan 2009, 1205). Jordan, by laying the foundation of Bradwell’s commitments and positions within women’s suffrage argues that Bradwell’s fight for a law license was primarily to advance women’s equality and that her own career choice (obtaining the license) was secondary. However, “Bradwell had never fought against marriage or motherhood, but she had always argued that being a wife and mother should not limit a woman’s citizenship status or be a barrier to a woman working in her chosen profession.  Bradwell wanted equal rights, not revolution” (Jordan 2009, 1218).

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March 18, 2011

Legal Pioneers

by Angela N. Johnson

Meg Gorecki’s article, “Legal Pioneers: Four of Illinois First Women Lawyers” explores the work of Myra Bradwell, Alta Hulett, Ada Kepley, and Catherine McCulloch in opening the door to the legal profession to women and serving as role models for today’s lawyers.  Though these ladies happen to be legal pioneers of Illinois, its important to note that these four women are also pioneers on a national scale, too.  Given these women’s efforts in Illinois, it should come as no surprise that a 1901 issue of the Chicago Legal News declared “Illinois has more women lawyers than any state in the world and Chicago has more than any other city in the world” (Gorecki 1990).

 In comparing women’s entry to the legal profession with women’s work as doctors, Gorecki notes, “In 1880 there were only two hundred women lawyers in the entire United States, which was less than the number of women doctors practicing in Boston alone”  (Gorecki 1990). Though this article groups the four women together, they each had individual successes.  “Myra Bradwell was the first woman to apply for a license to practice law. Alta Hulett was the first woman to become a lawyer in Illinois, Ada Kepley was the first woman in the world to receive a law degree, and Catherine McCulloch was the first woman in Illinois to become a justice of the peace”  (Gorecki 1990). 

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December 17, 2010

Myra Bradwell v. Illinois (1873)

by Angela N. Johnson

It would be a grave injustice to research women in the legal profession without also researching the struggle of women to enter the profession in the first place.  That search begins with Myra Bradwell.  Ms. Bradwell successfully passed the Illinois bar examination, was the publisher of a leading legal newspaper, wife of a prominent Cook County judge, yet was denied a license to practice law.

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