Celebrating Arabella Mansfield
Arabella Mansfield, born Belle Aurelia Babb on May 23, 1846 in Benton Township, Iowa, was the first woman to become a lawyer in the United States in 1869. As men left the workforce to fight in the Civil War, institutions of higher education opened their doors to women students and teachers. Mansfield, a suffragette and activist, taught at a college for a year before studying law as an apprentice in her brother’s law office. Although women were restricted from taking the bar exam, Mansfield took the exam in 1869 and passed with flying colors. After challenging the state’s laws against women being admitted to the bar, Mansfield became the first woman lawyer in the United States in 1969, continued her work as a college teacher, and continued her activism work until her passing in 1911.
Celebrating Kate Stoneman
Kate Stoneman, born May 19, 1925 in Busti, New York, was the first woman to become a lawyer in New York State. Stoneman was a student, working at the New York Court of Appeals, and pursuing a career in teaching when she developed an interest in the law. After taking and passing the New York State Bar exam in 1885, Stoneman’s application was rejected in Spring 1886 on the basis of her gender. Stoneman worked diligently with suffragettes to pass a bill allowing all qualified applicants to be admitted to the Bar regardless of gender or race. The bill was signed by the Governor only nine days after Stoneman’s initial rejection, and she was the first woman admitted to the NYS Bar in May 1886 at age 57. Stoneman ran her own law office in Albany from 1889 to 1922, before passing away in 1925.
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