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Belva Ann Lockwood - Moving Mountains

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In 1866 Belva took Lura, now seventeen years of age, and moved to Washington, D.C. Belva taught school and campaigned as an active member of the National Woman Suffrage Association, an organization seeking voting rights for women. In 1867 she helped found the Universal Franchise Association, Washington's first suffrage group. After a year Belva opened a private, coeducational school called McNall's Academy where both she and Lura taught. It was one of the first private schools in the capital to accept both girls and boys. Belva married Dr. Ezekiel Lockwood in 1868 and the following year they had a daughter, Jessie. Little Jessie died eighteen months later of typhoid fever, an infectious, often fatal bacterial disease transmitted in contaminated food or water.

Ezekiel assumed responsibility for the academy and encouraged Belva to pursue her goal of earning a law degree. Belva applied for admission to the law school of Columbian College (later George Washington University) in Washington. She was rejected, however, because of her gender. While waiting for admission to another law school Belva continued to work for women's rights. In 1872 she drafted a successful bill giving female civil servants (government workers) equal pay for equal work.

After further rejections from Georgetown and Howard universities, Belva was finally admitted to the newly formed National University Law School of Washington in 1871. She completed her degree requirements in May 1873 but was denied her diploma because of her gender. After sixteen months Belva grew frustrated. She wrote to U.S. president Ulysses Grant (1822–1885; served 1869–77), also president of the National University Law School, demanding her diploma. Her diploma arrived within days, signed by the faculty and President Grant himself. On September 24 Belva Lockwood was admitted to the District of Columbia bar and then to the District's supreme court.


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