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Belva Ann Bennett Lockwood is another illustration that we should always stand up for what we believe. On March 3, 1879, Belva became the first woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court; however, this accomplished, early feminist was not only the first woman to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, but she was also the first woman to run for U.S. President, according to an article via Rhapsody in Books Weblog.
Belva started her journey at age 22, facing opposition when she was refused admittance to the Columbian Law School in the District of Columbia; however, Belva didn’t let this rejection deter her as she eventually was admitted to the new National University Law School (now George Washington University Law School) along with a couple other women.
Even after completing her coursework in 1873, the school refused to authorize her diploma because of her gender. Nearly a year later, she received her diploma at the age of 43 after she wrote to President Ulysses S. Grant appealing to him as president ex officio of the National University Law School.
She would be admitted to the D.C. bar, but struggled constantly throughout her career with prejudice as a woman attorney. Even after handling and winning a majority of criminal defense cases, her practice was limited due to social discrimination. Belva, a constant fighter, drafted an anti-discrimination bill for equal access to the bar as her male counterparts, and single-handedly lobbied Congress in support of “an Act to relieve certain legal disabilities of women.” When the bill was signed into law by President Hayes in 1879, allowing all qualified women attorneys to practice in any federal court, Belva was sworn in and become the first woman member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar.
A year later, Belva became the first woman lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, all the while leading the charge for women’s rights in the legal industry.
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Well done Mrs. Lockwood! (edited)