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Arabella Mansfield

A Commanding Presence, Barred From Law Practice, Susan B. Anthony, A First For Women

Born May 23, 1846 (Burlington, Iowa)

Died August 1, 1911 (Aurora, Illinois)

Attorney, social activist

Arabella Mansfield sought equal opportunities for women in all aspects of U.S. society. She was an activist in the nineteenth century women's rights movement that spanned a range of issues from voting rights for women to the right of practicing law. As a result she became the first female lawyer in the United States. She passed the Iowa bar exam in 1869 and opened the way for other women to practice law. Within the year the Iowa legislature amended its statute to allow women and minorities to practice law in the state.

Although Mansfield never practiced law herself, she maintained her interest in legal proceedings and joined the National League of Women Lawyers in 1893, leading the way for others into careers in the law profession. A lifelong educator, Mansfield also campaigned for equal educational opportunities for women. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1980.

"The theory of this Government from the beginning has been perfect equality to all the people."

Arguments of the Woman-Suffrage Delegates to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary on January 24, 1880

For More Information


Drachman, Virginia G. Sisters in Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Edwards, Thomas G. Sowing Good Seeds: The Northwest Suffrage Campaigns of Susan B. Anthony. Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press, 1990.

Epstein, Cynthia Fuchs. Women in Law. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Web Sites

"Arabella Mansfield." The State of Iowa. http://www.state.ia.us/government/dhr/sw/iafame-mansfield.html (accessed on August 15, 2004).

"Arabella (Belle) A. (Babb) Mansfield—Timeline." Stanford University. http://www.law.stanford.edu/library/wlhbp/papers/BelleMansfieldTimeline.pdf (accessed on August 15, 2004).

"Stanton and Anthony Papers Project Online." Rutgers University. http://ecssba.rutgers.edu (accessed on August 13, 2004).

"The Susan B. Anthony Trial: A Chronology." University of Missouri. http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/anthony/sbahome.html (accessed on August 15, 2004).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law