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The First Female Lawyer

Updated on December 11, 2014
Arabella Mansfield - The First Female Attorney
Arabella Mansfield - The First Female Attorney

The First Woman Lawyer

The first female attorney in the United States was Arabella Mansfield. Mansfield was admitted to the Iowa State Bar in 1869. Despite an Iowa State Law that only allowed white males over the age of the twenty one to take the bar exam, Mansfield was allowed to take the bar and passed with high marks. The same year the law was changed to allow woman admittance to the State Bar. Oddly, Mansfield never actually practiced law but instead devoted her life to teaching and the suffrage. movement.

 

Mansfield Passed The Iowa State Bar Exam In 1869
Mansfield Passed The Iowa State Bar Exam In 1869

Mansfield's Early Life

Mansfield was born in Burlington, Iowa in 1846. She was the second child of Mary Moyer and Miles Babb. When Mansfield was very young, her father left for California in search of gold and riches. Manfield’s father became the superintendent of the Bay State Mining Company and the family moved to Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

In 1862, Mansfield began college at Iowa Weslyean College in Mount Pleasant. Mansfield studies History at Iowa Weslyean. Universities were admitting more and more woman at this time as many of the men were leaving college to fight in the Civil War. Mansfield graduated three years later as the class valedictorian. Mansfield taught at Simpson College then returned to Mount Pleasant to marry John Mansfield.

A Statue Honoring Arabella Mansfield Can Be Found At Iowa Wesleyan College
A Statue Honoring Arabella Mansfield Can Be Found At Iowa Wesleyan College
The Statue Honors Mansfield's Accomplishments As Well As To Honor And Highlight The Accomplishment Of Women And To Encourage Professional Empowerment.
The Statue Honors Mansfield's Accomplishments As Well As To Honor And Highlight The Accomplishment Of Women And To Encourage Professional Empowerment.
Mansfield Died In 1911 Before Passage Of The 19th Amendment But Did Much For The Sufferage Movement
Mansfield Died In 1911 Before Passage Of The 19th Amendment But Did Much For The Sufferage Movement

Mansfield's Accomplishments

Mansfield’s husband was a professor at Iowa Mesleyan and encouraged his wife to study law. Mansfield studied law in her brother’s law office until she was ready for the bar exam in 1869.

At the time Mansfield took the bar exam, Iowa had a law that limited who was qualified to sit for the bar. The law limited admittance to the bar to white males over the age of twenty one. After Mansfield passed the exam, Iowa changed the law and became the first state in the Union to admit woman to the Bar. The law was changed at the hands of a Court case wherein the Court held that the State that woman should not be denied to the right to practice law based solely on their sex.

Although she was admitted to the bar and allowed to practice law, Mansfield never engaged in the practice of law. Instead, Mansfield taught and engaged in activist work. In 1893, Mansfield became the Dean of the School of Art at Depauw University and in 1894 she became the Dean of the School of Music.

Mansfield was also very active in the woman’s suffrage movement. In 1869, Mansfield joined the executive committee of the National Women's Suffrage Association. Mansfield chaired the Iowa Women’s Suffrage Convention in 1870 and worked closely with Susan B. Anthony on women suffrage issues. Mansfield died in 1911. In 1980, Mansfield was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame and in 2002 the Iowa Organization of Women Attorneys established the Arabella Mansfield Award to honor women lawyers in Iowa.

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      mysticdave 8 years ago

      very interesting hub, not up on this subject much, but i enjoyed learning something new:)

    • bgpappa profile image
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      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thanks For Reading.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      I notice "she" covers up that Adam's Apple in all her photographs.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      ???

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      SAMUEL ADU--POKU 8 years ago

      I have learn't a lot from this.Thank you

    • profile image

      Ama Attaa Junior 8 years ago

      I enjoyed reading it and have learn't new things from it.MAY HER SOUL IN PERFECT PEACE.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 8 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thank you both for reading

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      Garfield 6 years ago

      My small business just went under, and it's been a real nightmare. My (female) friend is a bankruptcy lawyer and she was able to help with my situation and keep my house. It's neat to see where the space was opened for women to play big roles in the workplace.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 6 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Agreed.

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope things start to look up for you

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      Lori Camp 5 years ago

      This is a great article, thank you for sharing! My friend has enlisted my help in finding a good divorce attorney for her, and I stumbled across this article looking for it. I really enjoyed it! Great writing, and very insightful!

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      jewel 2743 5 years ago

      thank you your information it really helped and i learned a lot from it i give u credit!

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Thank you for reading

    • profile image

      graham_w 3 years ago

      Great hub, like some of the above readers I did not know much about the subject but enjoyed learning more. How quickly did the rest of the states follow in allowing women to sit for the bar? I wonder if Jeffrey Cohen at http://www.jcohenmediation.com/div1.htm has any information for New York.

    • bgpappa profile image
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      bgpappa 3 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Interesting question. I would have to do some research into that and perhaps do some follow up.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • JonDIDit profile image

      JonDIDit 2 years ago

      Margaret Brent was the first woman lawyer in America, arriving in the colonies in 1638. She was a master negotiator, an accomplished litigator, and a respected leader. Brent was involved in 124 court cases over eight years and won every one. SCJ Ruth Bader Gunsberg made me aware of her on a C-Span show.

    • bgpappa profile image
      Author

      bgpappa 2 years ago from Sacramento, California

      I certainly don't dispute that. However, that would have been under British Law. Still an important figure and should be better known. Thanks for the info.

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