Full name: Jessie Isabelle Roscow
17 April 1921 — Anaconda Standard
“Miss Jessie Roscow Tells How It Feels to Be Butte’s Only Woman Lawyer”
“‘I am afraid that you are going to be disappointed,’ said Miss Jessie Roscow, Butte’s only woman lawyer, when a member of the Standard staff interviewed her the other day during the course of the trial of Nelson & Pederson vs. Frank and Evelyn Maley. ‘There is nothing interesting or different about me,’ she continued. ‘I am like any other woman in business.’ Then Miss Roscow proceeded to shatter her own statements by proving that she is indeed interesting, intelligent and different. ‘Being the only woman lawyer in Butte,’ she said, ‘should not mark me as different from any other woman.’ If that fact does not mark her a personality, certainly her attractiveness and her cleverness do. Seeing her on the street, she would strike you as an energetic woman, still young. Womanlike she declared ‘I won’t tell you my age, not that it matters now, but it might 10 years hence.’ Her rosy complexion owes nothing to science, but to the outdoor exercises in which she delights. Her kindly gray eyes with a touch of humor and sparkle give you a straightforward glance and as a reporter once observed in an interview concerning Annette Adams Abbott, ‘she powders nose and has naturally curly hair.’
During the afternoon session in Judge Jackson’s court, together with William Meyer, who represented Mr. and Mrs. Maley, she could be seen in her business light. All during the case she was present and alert, taking notes and doing much of the detail work, but making no arguments. ‘I prefer,’ said Miss Roscow, ‘to do the outside work that goes with any case rather than to take it up in court. Arguing before a jury takes a naturally aggressive personality, and while I have enough Irish in me to appreciate a good fight, yet I can not stir one up.’ This gives as true a light on Miss Roscow’s personality as could be given. She had no desire to appear as a striking Portia or to direct any unnecessary attention to herself. In fact, her lack of forwardness amounts almost to a fault. ‘I have no desire to thrust myself into the limelight, being content with the study of law and the stenographic work that goes into the average case. When I had finished my law study with Judge Denny, I opened a law office in partnership with my brother and together we practised. I took a number of speeding cases, although I do not like the work attached to the police court. When my brother went to Seattle in December we closed the office in the Rialto building and I am now connected with the legal department of Clark interests.’
In telling of how she came to take up law, Miss Roscow said: ‘I never started life with the intention of doing law work. To go back to the beginning, I was born in Nebraska and educated there. While attending the university I pursued the art of drawing. Illustrating was my chosen vocation, but my eyes became affected by the strain and I knew I would have to give it up. I still do some illustrating, however, and planned a costume for my little niece for the Sybil Brown classes at the Broadway theater. I suppose I just naturally drifted into law. I knew that my stenography would be more valuable in a law office if I knew what I was talking about, so I began to read law books. The subject fascinated me and I attended Judge Denny’s school here. Three years ago I began practice, and that’s about all there is to it.’
When asked if she would advise law as a profession for young women she said: ‘I guess I’m like the doctor who says, “I would not have my son take up medicine. I would rather see him digging ditches.” But if a girl is naturally adapted to law and wants to make her living in that line of work, I would say “Go to it.” She will have to give up a lot of pleasures while learning as it is no child’s play but requires a quick mind, apt wits and an abundant flow of language, as you have doubtless observed during the course of arguments in this case. It also means nights of study at home when the girl might be attending dances and the movies and having a good time. Numerous women, however, throughout the country are taking up law and making good.’
‘Of course I like the movies,’ Miss Roscow almost indignantly said, thinking doubtlessly that she might be mistaken for a blue-stocking reformer. ‘I get a great deal of pleasure out of music and books and like all normal humans certainly like the movies. But athletics are my hobby.’ ‘Tell me about the medals you won in tennis,’ a friend called, but being naturally shy, Miss Roscow refused to say anything about the medals she won. However, she said, ‘I just love tennis and never miss a game if I can help it.’ Miss Roscow is one of the most enthusiastic fans in Butte and is an excellent player.
When the interviewer commented on the quietness of her clothes, she said: ‘I don’t want to call attention to myself in a courtroom and for that reason I almost always wear blue suits and small hats. I also keep my hat and coat on during court. I surely would look foolish if I attempted to come into the courtroom in a georgette waist and picture hat. No I don’t despise those things in their place, but rather like them the same as other women. But I don’t wear flat-heeled shoes or tortoise shell glasses,’ she concluded with a laugh.
Miss Roscow is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Roscow of 1047 Utah avenue and as she said herself her evenings are sometimes given over to study, but more often to a pleasurable book, music, dancing or the movies. ‘When I go home in the evening, I like to forget the work-day world.’
Then thinking that she had been interviewed enough, she attempted to ‘pass the buck’ to the interviewer and we literally beat it. However, in passing we had time to observe Miss Jessie Roscow is ‘no highbrow, and no blue-stocking.’ She is an interesting young woman, an intelligent one and above everything she is essentially feminine.”
17 December 1922 — Great Falls tribune
“Silver Bow county’s first woman legislator, Miss Jessie Roscow, of Butte, is one of Montana’s few woman lawyers, and one of the first to practice her profession in Butte. She came to Montana from Lincoln, Neb., where she received her education. She denies emphatically that she started out with the idea of becoming a lawyer. Her hobby during her school days was drawing, and she hoped to become an illustrator. But too close application to the drawing board resulted in eyestrain, and she was forced to give up that ambition, so turned her energies to the business world.
After some experience in the law offices of Lamb & Walker, and Jesse B. Roote, Miss Roscow decided that a knowledge of law would make her more valuable in her chosen line of work, so she studied law at the Silver Bow law school, and was admitted to the bar in June, 1917. The following May she began the practice of law in association with her brother, Lyman J. Roscow, under the name of Roscow & Roscow. She later became connected with the legal department of the W. A. Clark interests, and in addition to that association continues to handle a steadily increasing private practice.
Miss Roscow states she has a decided preference for probate practice, and she has had marked success in this line of work. Calling as it does for close attention to minute details, she feels that women are well adapted to its demands.
However, Miss Roscow does not devote all her time to work and study. She takes a keen interest in outdoor sports, and as she herself says, ‘sometimes plays a good game of tennis,’ but claims that it is more by luck than by good playing that she has won her trophies at that game. She takes a thoughtful interest in public affairs, but has never taken an active part in club work, except in the work of the recently organized Rotana club, in Butte, of which she is secretary and legal adviser.
Asked as to what legislation she proposes to advocate at the coming session, Miss Roscow laughingly declined to go into details. She says she is too new at the game of making laws to make any hard and fast decisions now, but that she will favor all constructive legislation, and legislation looking to an economical and efficient administration of public affairs.”
18 May 1882, in Red Bud, Illinois
William R. Roscow and Sarah Edith Tolin
1 or 2 brothers
- Graduate of Lincoln High School, Lincoln, Nebraska
- Attended classes for one year at University of Nebraska
Employment prior to Law:
- Stenographer in three different law offices
- Stenographer in the office of the city engineer of Butte, Montana
Silver Bow Law School, Butte, Montana
Admitted to Practice:
Preference for probate practice
Interest in Judicial Work:
Announced her intention to file for associate justice of the State Supreme Court on a non-partisan ticket in May 1944.
Elected to Montana Legislature in 1922
Butte, Montana, and Los Angeles, California (about 1945-1960)
17 January 1960 in Los Angeles, California
November 15, 1922 — Anaconda Standard
“Good Campaigner Tells About It
Miss Jessie Roscow Tell Rotana Club Members How It Feels to Run for Office
The Rotana club last evening held one of its best attended and most interesting meetings in months. Miss Jessie Roscow, the newly elected representative to the legislature from Silver Bow county, gave a talk on her experiences as a candidate for office. She graciously acknowledged the support which was accorded her by the women of Silver Bow county, and paid a tribute to Fannie Neyman, who was her opponent in the campaign. The two young women, both attorneys at law, are devoted friends and their campaign was much in the nature of friendly rivalry. . . .”
Robert Raymer, Montana: The Land and The People 58-59 (1930)
“JESSIE ROSCOW has stood in the front rank of women lawyers at Butte for more than a decade of years, and nothing has been allowed to divert from her profession. She has never relied upon others to do her work, and every question is investigated until the subject is exhausted. While not controlled by precedents, she personally examines every case where the subject has been involved, in other to extract the principles applicable to the matter at hand.
Miss Roscow was born at Red Bud, Randolph County, Illinois, and is a daughter of William R. and Edith (Tolin) Roscow. Her parents, who were natives of Illinois, came to Montana in 1906, and her father, who was for many years engaged in business in Illinois, Nebraska and Montana, is now living in retirement. There were three sons and two daughters in the family.
Jessie Roscow graduated from the high school at Lincoln, Nebraska, following which she applied herself to the study of law under private instruction. She was admitted to the bar in 1917 and in 1918 commenced practice at Butte, where she has since built up a large and profitable clientage of the best kind, her offices being located at 404 Lewisohn Building. In her practice one of Miss Roscow’s most remarkable qualities is her ability to make a correct and logical statement to the court. This is done in language which cannot be misunderstood, and when presented orally it is with a clear voice and appropriate emphasis, giving the greatest pleasure to the listener. The manner is one of honesty and candor which leaves no room for doubt as to her own convictions. She has always endeavored to aid the court in arriving at correct conclusions, both as to fact and law, believing it the highest duty of a lawyer to see that justice is done. In fact she commands the highest respect of judges and lawyers, and as a citizen is beyond reproach. She has always been prominent in public affairs, and in 1922 was elected a member of the State Legislature, in which body she served with commendable zeal and ability.
Miss Roscow is a member of the Silver Bow County Bar Association, and the Montana State Bar Association, and also holds membership in the Rotana Club. Her religious faith is that of the Catholic Church.”