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Ableman v. Booth and United States v. Booth

Belva Ann Lockwood (1830-1917)

At the time of the Ableman cases, very few women were able to be involved in the practice of law. But in 1879, Belva Ann Lockwood drafted a law, which was later passed by Congress, that admitted women to practice before the Supreme Court. She then became the first woman to put the law into action as the first woman lawyer to practice before the Court.

Lockwood was originally a teacher when she moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue a legal career. She had already had a full life, though she was only 30. Lockwood did not pursue a higher education for herself when young. In fact, it was not until the death of her husband left her in need of supporting her young daughter that she decided she needed further schooling to make ends meet. She graduated school with honors as a teacher, and started work at the prestigious Lockport Union School. It was in her time as a teacher that she first became known as a feminist, as she encouraged the girls to polish their public speaking skills At this time Lockwood discovered and fostered her interest in the law and the political activism of women such as Susan B. Anthony. It was these interests that drew her to Washington, D.C. in the first place.

Lockwood gained entry to the newly founded National University Law School, where she quickly realized her dream of becoming a lawyer. The work was hard, and the treatment in the male-dominated field was harsh, but Lockwood made it through the course, ultimately being the only student (of the 14 women she started with) to receive her diploma in the end. This unequal treatment only served to strengthen Lockwood's feminist determination, and led her hand in many of her legal battles. She worked tirelessly during her life for women's suffrage, equal rights, and Native American rights.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882Ableman v. Booth and United States v. Booth - Significance, Joshua Glover Is Saved From The Slave Catchers, Wisconsin Nullifies Federal Laws, Federal Courts Are Supreme Over State Courts