You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”Manage Alerts
In 1873, Belva Lockwood became one of the first female attorneys in the United States. After she finished her law studies at the National University Law School (now George Washington University Law School), the university refused to grant her a diploma because she was a woman. Lockwood wrote to President Ulysses S. Grant, who was also president ex officio of the university, and demanded her diploma. She had it within a week.
See also: The woman who changed the world.
In 1876 she applied to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. The chief justice responded, “[N]one but men are permitted to practice before it as attorneys and counselors.” Lockwood drafted a bill that would give women the same rights as men in federal courts, and then buttonholed congressmen and defended the bill personally in committee hearings. In 1879, Congress passed it.
In 1884, she ran for president on the ticket of the National Equal Rights Party, and ran a second time four years later.
For those reasons and others, Lockwood became a hero to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who in 2008 said: “Visitors to my chambers will see posted on a wall outside a replica of the vote sheet recording the court’s refusal to admit Lockwood, and one of many less than flattering cartoons published during her presidential runs. She was a woman of sense and steel. Along with legions of others, I am inspired by her example, and elated by the progress of our society toward full and equal citizenship stature for men and women.”
Lockwood worked tirelessly for women’s suffrage, and for peace, until her death in 1917. Her story is less well known than that of other women of her time, perhaps because her letters and journals were destroyed following her death.
In Alyne Ellis’s report, we’ll hear from Ginsburg and from Jo Norgren, author of Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President. Listen with the audio player, above.
You may also like: Women in the last 50 years.
Chris Gardner | Personal Growth Expert
From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.
Members save on first-year membership fees to AARP® Roadside Assistance from Allstate.
Credit safeguards with AARP® Credit and Identity Theft Protection from TrustedID®.
Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.
Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.
Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.