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Arabella Mansfield - A First For Women

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After her marriage, Mansfield joined her husband as a faculty member at Iowa Wesleyan where she taught English and A session of the National Woman's Suffrage Association during a Chicago political convention in 1880. Arabella Mansfield was a suffragist and an activist in the nineteenth-century women' rights movement. (© Bettmann/Corbis)
history. She and John began studying law together in hopes of passing the bar exam. Mansfield spent additional hours preparing for the exam as an apprentice at Ambler's law office where her brother Washington worked before his own admission. When she felt confident she had mastered the material, the twenty-three-year-old Mansfield applied to be admitted to the Iowa bar in June of 1869. She passed the exam with high scores but had to take her situation before a judge in order to be admitted to the Iowa bar.

Iowa law stated only white men over the age of twenty-one were allowed to receive a law license. Judge Francis Springer was an advocate of women's rights and was looking for a way to support professional women. He interpreted the word "men" in the state statute to mean all humans. He declared that including males did not mean excluding females.

In 1869 Arabella Mansfield became the first woman lawyer admitted to the practice of law in the state of Iowa, as well as the United States. By March 1870 Iowa became the first state to officially amend its attorney licensing code as three other women were admitted. Mansfield's accomplishment was highly praised and a major achievement of the women's rights movement.

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