Rebels at the Bar: The Fascinating, Forgotten Stories of America’s First Women Lawyers

Jill Norgren. NYU, $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8147-5862-5
Intriguing and enriching, Norgren’s book on the first generation of women lawyers in America offers an in-depth look at the careers of eight notable women. Taking place largely over the last quarter of the 19th century, these women, determined and resourceful, educated themselves and lobbied courts and legislatures and law schools for admittance to the practice. Norgren (Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President), professor emerita of political science at the City University of New York’s John Jay College, introduces readers to Myra Bradwell, who after being refused at the Illinois bar, created the Chicago Legal News, and advocated for women’s rights on its editorial page. Meanwhile, Mary Hall, who avoided conflict, only wanted to perform office work and didn’t want to enter a courtroom. The chapter on Clara Foltz is the book’s highlight, detailing the life of a fascinating wanderlust-driven woman with a louse of a husband and five children. Foltz moved all over the West, practicing, lecturing, and advocating while raising a family on her own. Norgren sticks largely to documentation, leaving historical analysis for a short epilogue; character analyses gets short shrift as well. Though the book can lag, this intersection of legal and feminist history is unquestionably inspiring. Agent: Cecelia Cancellaro. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 04/01/2013
Ebook - 287 pages - 978-0-8147-5863-2
Paperback - 286 pages - 978-1-4798-3552-2
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