Full name: Pearl May Kennedy Hilbert Roberts
13 July 1884, in Choteau, Montana
John A. Kennedy and Kate Mcquaig
Nashville College of Law (1902-1903)
11 July 1902 — Great Falls Tribune — “May Study Law”
“The free scholarship for a woman in the National College of Law in Nashville, Tenn., was yesterday offered by State Superintendent W. W. Welch to Miss Pearl M. Kennedy of Choteau. It is good for three years.
Miss Kennedy is a teacher in the Choteau school and has distinguished herself by contributing some poems which bear the marks of genius to the Rocky Mountain Magazine and other publications. One which was published in the Choteau Montanan, on the death of the nineteenth century, is remarkably good.
In making the appointment, Mr. Welch wrote to Miss Kennedy:
‘I feel sure that no more worthy person could be found to represent Montana, and I have full confidence in your ability to do credit to yourself and this state you have the honor of representing.'”
Law office of R. Edward Hilbert
Admitted to Practice:
- Montana 1906
- Washington (1908?)
- R. Edward Hilbert, 14 June 1904
- Herbert Prescott Wilks Roberts, 2 July 1914; died before 1923
December 1958, in New York, NY
Physical Description from 1923 Passport Application:
Five feet, four inches tall; dark brown hair; hazel eyes; fair complexion
17 June 1904 — Montanan — “Kennedy-Hilbert”
“At the home of the bride’s parents, in this city, on June 14, 1904, Miss Pearl May Kennedy was united in marriage to Mr. Rudolph Edward Hilbert, of Nashville, Tenn. The Rev. W. J. Attwood, of the Episcopal church of Wibaux, performing the marriage services, only relatives being present. . . .
Miss Pearl Kennedy is the oldest daughter of Hon. and Mrs. J. M. Kennedy, and is a native Montanan, having been born in Teton county 21 years ago, and has a legion of friends who wish her unbounded success and happiness.
Mr. Hilbert is a native of Tennessee, and came to Montana about a year ago and located at Great Falls, where he is now practicing as a lawyer.
They were the recipients of many pretty and valuable presents.
After a sumptuous wedding dinner the bridal couple left for Great Falls where they will make their future home.”
29 May 1906 — Butte Miner — “Another Montana Portia”
“On June 6 next, thirteen candidates will take the supreme court examinations for certificates entitled them to practice before Montana courts. Included in the list is one woman, Pearl Kennedy Gilbert [Hilbert], of Forsyth. . . . This will be the first time in a number of years that a woman has taken the examination.”
31 December 1909 — Seattle Daily Times — “Divorce Decree for Wife of Attorney”
“On her charges of neglect, non-support and desertion of herself and four-year-old son, John, Mrs. Pearl Hilbert, 314 Terry Avenue, this morning was granted a decree of divorce from Attorney Randolph Edward Hilbert by Superior Judge Wilson R. Gay. In addition she gets the custody of the child and $400 a year alimony. The defendant, who appeared only through his counsel, A. J. Speckert, denied every allegation but offered no evidence.
The suit was filed this morning by Attorney M. M. Lyster, after an endeavor of several weeks to effect an arbitration between Hilbert and his wife.
Mrs. Hilbert testified that they were married June 14, 1904, in Montana, and that in March, 1908, several months after their removal to this city he began neglecting his family, remaining away from home for many days at a time with no plausible excuse, and refusing to contribute to her support, eventually compelling Mrs. Hilbert to seek employment for the maintenance of herself and the boy. She asserted that on August 2, 1909, he deserted the family entirely, refusing any longer to make even the pretense of keeping them. Throughout this period the wife and child have resided with her mother, Mrs. Katie Kennedy.”
(approx. 1910; unidentified clipping)
“Divorcees to Practice Law as Partners: Leonia W Browne and Pearl Kennedy Hilbert, Both Without Mrs. by Request, Will Win Decrees for Women”
“Browne & Hilbert, Lawyers, 446 Central Building. That is the name and address of the first firm of women lawyers on record either in Washington or the whole Pacific coast, and probably in the entire country.
It was formed last Saturday and started business yesterday by winning its first case.
Women Who Think Alike
The partners are Leonia W. Browne, the ‘divorces for women’ attorney, also Western Washington leader of the Political Equality League and one of the most aggressive suffragettes in the country, and Pearl Kennedy Hilbert — like Leonia W. Browne, a divorcee herself — a lawyer and as ardent in the suffrage cause as her partner.
The stationery has been printed and the new law firm goes into business without ‘Mrs.’ being any part or parcel of the assets. Indeed it was made quite plain by both women that they do not wish to be referred to in the newspapers as ‘Mrs.’
Mrs. Forever Barred
‘If you have anything to say about our firm,’ said Mrs. — no — Leonia Windsor Browne, ‘won’t you please refer to us by our names without any prefix whatever. For instance, when you speak in The Times of my partner — she is the prettiest and most delightful of little women — as Pearl Kennedy Hilbert, and forget, won’t you, that she ever was a Mrs., although she is the best mother and has the prettiest little child you ever saw. I am sure everybody will love her.’
Pearl Kennedy Hilbert was divorced last week from Randolph Edward Hilbert on the ground that her husband frequently absented himself from home without excuse and that he failed to support her and their son. She resides at 314 Terry Avenue.
She studied law in Montana and was admitted to practice there three years ago and was admitted to the bar of Washington last year.
Gets Her Own Divorce
Leonia W. Browne has been a successful practitioner in Seattle for more than 18 months and one of her most notable exploits was obtaining for herself a divorce.
She has stood to the fore as a friend of women victims of brutal husbands and a belligerent suffragist.
‘We have a powerful advocate for political equality in Pearl Hilbert,’ said Leonia W. Browne, ‘and you may believe me that we will make our enemies hustle next summer to win. Pearl Hilbert is a good lawyer and to show you how good she is we won a $2,700 real estate commission suit yesterday, the first of our partnership before Judge Wilson R. Gay.
‘Our slogan is still votes and divorces for women.'”
13 January 1910 — Choteau Acantha
“A front page article in the Seattle Daily Times of Jan. 4 gives an interesting account of the only partnership of its kind in the state of Washington or on the Pacific slope. It is a partnership in the practice of law, between two women, Leonia Winsor Browne and Pearl Kennedy Hilbert, the latter being a native of Choteau and a resident until four or five years ago. Both are aggressive suffragettes and leaders in affairs that concern women. They will make a specialty of securing decrees of separation for women who suffer abuses from their husbands.”
23 March 1910 – The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
WOMEN LAWYERS WAR OVER FEES; FIRM DISSOLVES
Leonia W. Browne Breaks Legal Partnership with Pearl K. Hilbert
Both Equal Suffragists
Divorced Their Husbands and Set Themselves Up as Sympathizing
With Sisters in Like Temporary Distress for a Reasonable Fee
* * * * * *
“I want half the profits!”
“You can have only a third!”
“Well, then I quit!”
With these words the curtain rang down yesterday on the last act of a drama in three acts.
Act 1 – Two women lawyers, each armed with a decree of divorce from her husband, meet in suffrage work.
Act 2 – The two suffragists form the only firm of divorced women lawyers in the country.
Act 3 – They quarrel over the division of profits and dissolve the law firm, each planning to open separate offices in the same suite in the Central building, the suite occupied by the Washington Political Equality League
Browne & Hilbert No More
Browne & Hilbert, organized the first of the year as the only firm of divorced women practicing lawyers in the United States, exists no more.
Quarreling over a division of the profits, Mrs. Leonia Windsor Browne and Mrs. Pearl Kennedy Hilbert yesterday signed articles dissolving partnership. Mrs. Browne gave back the $200 that Mrs. Hilbert put into the firm and the articles witness that Mrs. Browne is to continue the business of the firm and keep all of the assets. Mrs. Hilbert announced yesterday that she would open an office on her own.
Officers in Equality League
Both are officers of the Washington Political Equality League, with headquarters in the Central building. The law firm of Browne & Hilbert had its offices there. Mrs. Browne is vice president and campaign manager for Western Washington of the league and Mrs. Hilbert is secretary. Both assert that they have a right to open their separate offices in the league headquarters and that they intend to do so. How the league, the two separate law offices and Mrs. James Anderson, who is chairman of the executive committee of the league, will find space to do business in the three rooms of the headquarters is a problem.
Mrs. Browne’s Statement
Mrs. Brown typewrote her own statement and then signed it. Lacking a penholder, she took a curling iron from the recesses of her desk and inserted a pen between the prongs. The spring was strong and the point held.
“Yes, it is true that our partnership is dissolved,” the statement reads, “I found Mrs. Hilbert a most charming and interesting partner and was more than sorry to lose her. She is a woman of unusual beauty and attainments, with a fine legal mind, splendidly trained and developed. Although she is no longer associated with me, I am sure she will do well and will demonstrate that there is plenty of business for careful, hard-working women lawyers in the city of Seattle.
“MRS. LEONIA W. BROWNE”
Mrs. Hilbert’s Plans
Mrs. Hilbert said: “We have dissolved our partnership. I am going into the general practice of law along strictly ethical lines. I haven’t made up my mind where I will open my office but as I am still secretary of the Washington Political Equality League, I guess I have a right to keep my office there.”
“Will you make a specialty of divorces for women?” Mrs. Hilbert was asked.
“Never mind. I don’t want to say anything about that.”
Says Her Salary is Unpaid
The articles of partnership forming the firm at the first of the year witnessed that in consideration of $200 paid by Mrs. Hilbert she was to have a third interest in all the profits and to get a salary of $50 a month besides. While Mrs. Hilbert declares that Mrs. Browne has stated to other persons that the firm is making $450 a month, Mrs. Hilbert says she is not getting her $50, only a third of the profits and that what she gets is not enough to support herself and her son properly.
Mrs. Browne declares that Mrs. Hilbert is getting all that is coming to her and in proof of the business says that she (Mrs. Browne) is able to support herself and her two boys and her 16-year old daughter.
Mrs. Hilbert in Background
Quarreling and lack of harmony were noticeable for some time, mutual friends declare. Mrs. Browne kept her desk in the consultation room and made Mrs. Hilbert stay in the outer room. Visitors to the office say that every time they came, Mrs. Browne was occupying the post of honor and Mrs. Hilbert was doing the typewriting and transcribing shorthand notes.
Mrs. Hilbert resented taking orders from her partner and several weeks ago announced to her that she had another offer to go in business and would take it unless she was given a half interest in the law firm. Mrs. Browne refused, and the partnership dissolved.
Both are members of the Seattle Women’s Commercial Club.”
2 July 1914 — Seattle Daily Times
The marriage of Mrs. Pearl Kennedy Hilbert and Mr. H. Wilks Roberts was quietly solemnized this afternoon at 5:30 o’clock. The service was read by Rev. Arthur P.S. Hyde at the home of Mrs. Jessie McGowan Walker, 1206 Sixteenth Avenue North.
Mr. and Mrs. Roberts will be at home after September 1, at 744 Broadway North.”
15 August 1935 — Choteau Acantha — “Met Former Choteau Teacher”
“Recently while on a vacation in Washington, Rev. Edwin Dover chanced to meet in Snohomish, Washington, Mrs. Marshall, wife of a Presbyterian minister in that city. Learning that Mr. Dover was from Montana, Mrs. Marshall informed him that she used to live in Montana and when asked where, replied, ‘Choteau.’ The conversation developed that the lady was formerly Miss Pearl Kennedy and that she taught her at the time Phil I. Cole and Mrs. C. S. McDonald were teaching. Mrs. Marshal asked to be remembered to old time friends in Choteau. She is a cousin of Mrs. Margaret Davis of this city.”
9 July 1936 — Choteau Acantha
“Mrs. Pearl Roberts and son, John, of New York City arrived Tuesday for a brief visit in Choteau. Mrs. Roberts is remembered here by old timers as the former Miss Pearl Kennedy, daughter of John Kennedy who was one of the pioneers of Choteau. They are driving through to Seattle and plan to leave here today.”
11 July 1946 — Choteau Acantha
“A party consisting of Mrs. Shirley Ford of Minneapolis, Mrs. George Schmidlap (Frances Cooper) and two daughters of New York, Mrs. Pearl Kennedy Roberts, also of New York, and Mrs. John E. Erickson stopped in Choteau briefly the Fourth of July enroute to Glacier park, where they will vacation for two weeks.”
23 July 1953 — Choteau Acantha
“Mrs. H. W. Roberts of New York City and her sister, Kate Conrad, of Kirkland, Wash., are guests of their cousin Mrs. Margaret Davis. The ladies will be remembered as Pearl and Kate Kennedy, whose father, John A. Kennedy, was a prominent citizen of Teton county in the nineties.”
10 December 1958 — New York Herald Tribune — “Mrs. Pearl Roberts”
“Mrs. Pearl Kennedy Roberts, seventy-five, for years an active Republican, died Monday night while dining with a friend at the Berkshire Hotel, Madison Ave. and 52d St. Her home was at 319 E. 50th St.
The friend, Mrs. Shirley Ford, said Mrs. Roberts had been a widow for thirty years. Surviving is a son, J. K. Roberts.”