Obiorah Fields, LLC - March 2020

OBIORAHFIELDS.COM | 404-994-6218 | MARCH 2020


“Every Woman lawyer who actually earns her living in the practice of law is an exceptional woman. To survive the hard grind of study, and the worst grind of private practice or the demands of public office, requires good health, good brains, and most importantly, good luck.”

three years later as the valedictorian of her class. Mansfield took the bar exam at a time when only men were legally allowed to do so, and she earned high scores. After that, she challenged that law in the courts and won, making Iowa the first state in the Union that allowed women to practice law. She spent the rest of her career teaching at Wesleyan College and DePauw University as well as taking part in the women’s suffrage movement alongside Susan B. Anthony. Just three years after Mansfield’s admission to the Iowa Bar in 1872, Charlotte E. Ray broke down even more barriers for women who wanted to study law. She became the first black female attorney in the United States as well as the first female attorney to be admitted to the District of Columbia Bar after she graduated from the Howard University School of Law. Unlike Mansfield, there is evidence she was active in court and some considered her to be “one of the best lawyers on corporations in the country.” Seven years after Ray’s admission to the District of Columbia Bar and 10 years after Mansfield’s admission to the Iowa Bar, Belva Ann Lockwood became the first woman to be allowed to practice in front of the United States Supreme Court. While this in and of itself is an incredible achievement, Lockwood’s accomplishments stretched

–Rosalind Goodrich Bates, Editor, National Women Lawyers’ Journal, 1932

Someone posted this quote on their Facebook page the other day, and it got me thinking about just how remarkable it is that we live in a society where a woman can make a living as an attorney, especially considering that it was uncommon or even impossible not so long ago. If it hadn’t been for some of the brave women who pursued a career in law in the face of societal opposition, there would probably be far fewer female attorneys working today. In light of March 8 being International Women’s Day, what better time to celebrate these women and their stories? The first woman to become an attorney in the United States was Arabella Mansfield in Iowa in 1869. She began studying law at Wesleyan College in 1862, at a time when universities were admitting more women because so many men were leaving to fight in the American Civil War. She graduated


beyond her capacity as an attorney. Like Mansfield and Ray, she was also a major player in the women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements. Lockwood ran for president in 1884 and 1888, becoming the first woman to do so, as a member of the National Equal Rights Party. Because of these women and so many more after them, Teri and I can pursue careers in law. It’s because of them that Obiorah Fields exists. We’re grateful for all the female attorneys before us who continue to inspire future generations to fight for justice and equality through the practice of law and, in turn, push for a more equal society for everyone.

–Danielle Obiorah

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