August 21, 1930— Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“Sees Many Fields For Woman Lawyer — Miss Dorothy Most, New Adviser at St. John’s, Believes Profession, Though Hard, Offers Rewards to Intelligent Girls
Women looking for a profession with cares and hard work and a chance to perform humanitarian tasks should try law, Miss Dorothy C. Most, a youthful lawyer from Houston, Texas, offered today.
It is Miss Most’s duty to advise women. for she has just been appointed secretary of St. John’s College School of Law and advisor to its women students. She will assume her new duties Sept. 1.
‘Of course,’ she qualified a bit, ‘not every woman can make a lawyer. But if a girl has brains, perseverance and the will to do, she will get ahead. It’s a hard row to hoe.’
Miss Most said that most lawyers who really become successful drown out most other interests in life. But, she said, one of the healthiest states is to weave in an avocation or hobby. She tried it, she said, and to that she attributes her being in the profession today.
She is an accomplished violinist, has played in concerts and in theaters in Houston quite a bit, and many times, she confided, has thought of giving up law, but not a thought of relinquishing her music.
Miss Most’s new advisory capacity is not new to her. She already has served similarly to a law school dean, and liked it. She can tell you tales of women lawyers, or women law students, coming to weep on her shoulder, despairing at the magnitude of their tasks.
Miss Most sees a variety of fields open to good women lawyers. Not merely practicing before the bar, or becoming magistrates and judges, but securing responsible positions with corporation and institutions which need women with a legally trained mind.
Miss Most was born on a sheep ranch in Nebraska. She lived on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma for 12 years before her family moved to Houston. And despite this out-of-door life which she knows so well, she says: ‘I just love Brooklyn.’ She lives on the Heights.
Schooled in Austin, Texas, Miss Most was graduated from the University of Texas in 1924, and received her LL.B. degree from the university law school the year following. She was the only woman in the class, for in the West and South, Miss Most explained, few girls go in for the legal profession. At St. John’s she will have 125 girls to advise about everything from legal difficulties and actual practice to a woman lawyer’s social problems.
Miss Most practiced for two years after being admitted to the Texas bar, with the law firm of Baker, Botts, Parker & Garwood, in Houston, which, she says, is the largest in the South. She said she didn’t know whether she would try for admittance to the New York bar, and hasn’t any thought on some day becoming a judge.
She will take post graduate legal study here this winter, and is too interested in her job to concern herself with much else.
Miss Most is a member of Kappa Beta Phi, national woman’s legal fraternity, Pi Sigma Alpha, national honorary political science sorority, and in Houston was a member of the Soroptimist Club, a woman’s Rotary organization.”
August 26, 1930— Iola Register
“Mrs. Mabel Walker Willebrandt dislikes the term ‘woman lawyer.’ Here to attend the convention of Phi Delta Delta, a woman’s [sic] lawyer’s [sic] organization. She said there are women who are lawyers and those who are not, but there are no ‘women lawyers,’ there is no special field of law to which women are particularly adapted.”
August 28, 1932 — Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“Woman Lawyer Shies at Tag of ‘Portia’
If Shakespeare Only Knew What he Was Doing to Us, Moans Ella Bernard, Successful Defender of Two Accused of Murder”
“Ella Bernard has just one complaint to make about the fame that has come to her through her successful defense, in only eight months of legal practice, of two men accused of murder — they will call her a modern ‘Portia.’
‘If Shakespeare only knew what he was doing to all of the poor women lawyers,’ she moaned, ‘he wouldn’t have written about her. Every woman who is successful in court gets the tag of “Portia” attached to her.’
Perhaps it was ‘just luck,’ as she says, that guided the slender hands of this very young Brooklyn woman lawyer as they untied the legal knots and freed the two men.
But with this ‘luck’ at her side, Miss Bernard, who is so young that she refuses to tell her age, has been making legal history in this county.
To be counsel for two men accused of murder and to give them both their lives is a record any young lawyer, be it man or woman, would be proud to own. When she was appointed counsel for Samuel Williams in February of this year it was stated that she was the first woman in the history of the county to be assigned to defend a first degree murder prisoner.
Her second victory came Wednesday when she succeeded in having the case against Lawrence Radford dismissed for lack of evidence by Magistrate H. Stanley Renaud, sitting in New York Homicide Court. In this case she was retained by the family.
Miss Bernard’s career reads like the life of a story book heroine:
She was born in Brooklyn an indefinite number of years ago but was graduated from Franklin Lane High School five years ago so she cannot be very aged. Graduated from St. John’s Law School in 1930 in two years instead of the usual three, she worked during the day and attended night school to get her cherished diploma.
During her year’s clerkship in the office of Harold W. Reitman, . . she passed her bar examinations the first time she took them — which is something to do. Admitted to the bar in December, 1931, she started out this momentous year of 1932 by opening offices . . . Sharing them with her was Harry J. Engel, a friend from the pre-law days at St. John’s College and a classmate at law school. They are not partners in law but they are partners in matrimony. . . .
Now her brother, ten years older than she is, is serving his clerkship under her after graduating from St. John’s Law School in June with honors.
Slender, with clear olive complexion, great dark eyes and her black hair arranged in a long bob, she looks as though she should be decorating a drawing room instead of fighting for lives in courts of the law.
Her work in murder cases has not been entirely chance. Reitman, with whom she worked, is a criminal lawyer. Although she will not specialize in criminal work, she is keenly interested in ‘any phase of the law dealing with human reactions and human emotions,’ and where is there a better place to find them than in a murder case.
‘When I am working on a case upon which a man’s life hangs,’ she said yesterday, ‘I feel that it is a great responsibility, but I am not scared or worried. Although I have defended men on both occasions, it would not matter whether it were a man or a woman; the point is in defending them.
‘I like the court work and the attempt to read behind the thoughts of the jury and fathom a bit of the mystery that makes the strings work.
‘I think both the murder cases I have had have been very exciting ones. When Radford’s case was dismissed, he was crying and his wife, who is the mother of his six children, jumped up and kissed me. I guess I even had tears in my own eyes.'”
August 25, 1934 — Montana Butte Standard
“Fanney Neyman, Butte Girl, Proclaimed in Washington As Foremost Woman Lawyer”
“Miss Fanney Neyman, native Butte girl who has been proclaimed by the eastern press as ‘the foremost woman lawyer in Washington, D.C.’ and who is likewise known as one of the only two woman radio lawyers in the United States, has been paying her old home town a visit . . . .
Fanney Neyman was born in this city. She attended the Butte grade schools, took a course in law at a local school [Silver Bow Law School], graduated from the Montana State college and completed her legal education at Georgetown university. She went to Washington, D. C., in 1925 as a law clerk for the late Senator T. J. Walsh.
Previous to her appointment to Senator Walsh’s staff she had been law clerk in Butte for the Hon. James E. Murray, the democratic candidate for the two-year term as United States Senator.
In Washington the young law clerk made such a favorable impression on members of the bar that she was appointed assistant counsel for the Federal Radio Commission. She justified their estimate of her ability by her capable presentation of the first radio case — an appeal from the rule of the Federal Radio Commission — before the supreme court of the United States that the nation’s most august tribunal had ever sat upon. She won the suit, although opposed by a half dozen Washington lawyers among whom was the outstanding Levi Cook. Mabel Walker Wildebrandt was also an attorney in this case, not for the government, however, but for an intervenor.
When the Federal Radio commission was abolished and the Federal Radio Communication bureau established Miss Neyman was appointed assistant counsel for that body and has maintained the record that she set in her first supreme court case.
There are two subjects on which Miss Neyman is particularly enthusiastic. They are: The qualifications of James E. Murray for the senatorship and the merits of the Montana representation in the national congress.
The nation’s foremost woman lawyer, notwithstanding her high position in the legal world, is still little more than a girl. A slender, black-haired, black-eyed young woman with an infectious smile, comely of face and figure her appearance emphatically gives the lie to the hackneyed saying that ‘only homely women have brains.’ . . .”
August 8, 1935 — The Journal News
“The Divorce Market
According to the only woman lawyer in Nevada, the divorce business which has made the state famous is no gold mine for members of the bar and others who depend for a portion of their income upon that industry. Miss Felice Cohn, representative of her sex at the Nevada bar, has found that measures intended to increase the REVENUE from divorces have been a failure, that the six weeks residence period has not proved popular, and that Reno gets only about 3,000 divorces a year compared to more than six times that many in Chicago. Result: the divorce business is not a land-office business in Nevada.
But one of the odd developments of the times is the aid the divorce business is receiving from school teachers. The effort to drive married women from the ranks of TEACHERS is, it appears, driving them to the divorce courts, in certain of the Western States at least. Miss Cohn told her sister lawyers that an ‘appalling’ number of women teachers were flocking to Nevada to obtain divorces. Many, she said, expected at some future time to re-marry their husbands. Percilia L. Randolph of Los Angeles, newly elected president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, told much the same story. She said that in California many women teachers CONCEALED their marriages while other [sic] obtained divorces to escape discrimination against them.
Thus curious questions are raised by efforts to drive women into the kitchen. Especially, the movement against married school teachers is meeting resistance in ways which themselves may be open to censure. Nevada may profit as its DIVORCE MILL gains from this strange development, but generally the difficulty of imposing artificial and unnatural restrictions upon any class of workers will mean but many more complications in our already complicated and highly regulated life.”
August 9, 1935 — Greenfield Daily Reporter
“Heads the Portias
For the first time in its history the National Association of Women Lawyers elected a western woman as president, giving that office to Percilla Lawyer Randolph, Los Angeles. Mrs. Randolph was elected by unanimous ballot at the association’s annual convention in Los Angeles.”
August 8, 1936 — The Pittsburgh Courier
“MRS. ALEXANDER IS NAMED PHILADELPHIA PROSECUTOR
Appointed Friday as Assistant City Solicitor by Mayor S. Davis Wilson.
Dr. Sadie T. M. Alexander, only woman lawyer of her race in this city, was named an Assistant City Solicitor by Mayor S. Davis Wilson, on Friday.
Mrs. Alexander, who is the wife of Raymond Pace Alexander, local attorney, served four years in the Solicitor’s office during the term of Mayor Mackey.
The former Sadie Tanner Mossell is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she also earned her Master’s degree and Doctorate. She is a niece of Dr. Nathan F. Mossell and of Henry O. Tanner, internationally known artist and a cousin of Paul Robeson.
The Alexanders are attending Frog Week in Pittsburgh this week and the sessions of the National Bar Association of which Mr. Alexander is a former president.”
August 18, 1936 — Statesville Record and Landmark
“Woman Indorses Death Decree; Feminine Lawyer and Head of National Group Takes the Stand
Women law breakers have no right to expect clemency when their clashes with society are punishable by death, Mrs. Percilla Randolph, president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, believes.
Women fought for equal consideration with men in all things and now they will have to take it, even if it means the electric chair, she told members of the Woman’s Bar Association of Illinois.
The soft-voiced little woman was discussing the fate of Mrs. Mildred Bolton, first woman in Illinois to be sentenced to the electric chair. Mrs. Bolton’s execution has been set for Oct. 29.
‘As long as such devastating crimes as kidnapping and murder occur to desolate the homes and the heart of the world,’ Mrs. Randolph said, ‘we must have some punishment stronger than imprisonment.
Women fought for a place on an equal basis with men in all kinds of work. They must accept that place without fear or favor. The yoke that falls on men must also fall on women. They can’t ask favors of the law.’
Mrs. Randolph, who began practicing law in Los Angeles 17 years ago to support an invalid husband and a small son, avoids criminal cases herself, preferring to handle guardianship and trustee affairs.
‘Many women don’t believe in capital punishment,’ Mrs. Randolph said, ‘but in California we found it checked kidnapping. The wisdom of the world has not yet reached the point where we can abolish this punishment.’
Mrs. Randolph looks forward to an improvement in human nature which will ‘just naturally eliminate capital punishment.’
Women who want to do something more immediate can seek election to state legislators [sic] and bring their views to bear on state laws, she said.
‘There ought to be more women legislators and more women on juries,’ Mrs. Randolph said, commending the Illinois Bar Association for its successful fight to win this conquest for women of the state.
‘Women have a peculiar understanding of laws which pertain to the protection of home and children. They should serve on all juries hearing trials involving sex problems, because of their feminine point of view.’
Mrs. Randolph believes the law an ideal profession for women, especially in view of the man attractive federal, county and city positions open to women with legal training.”
August 25, 1936 — The Evening News
“Women Lawyers Open Convention at Boston, Mass.; Women Lawyers Will Strive for ‘Equal Rights’ in Convention”
“Seeking ‘equal rights,’ women lawyers from 38 states are meeting in the 37th annual meeting of the National Association of Women Lawyers.
One of the chief discussion topics at the session was the amendment before congress which gives women attorneys the same rights as men attorneys. . . . Uniform divorce laws in all states were advocated by the convention.”
August 28, 1937 — San Bernardino County Sun
“Bar Women Jurors
In 27 of the 48 states in the union, women are barred from jury duty.”
August 28, 1937 — Nevada State Journal
“Women Jurors on First Case”
“Women jurors serving for the first time in New York history helped to acquit a member of their sex on a charge of reckless driving.
Two women served on a jury of six summoned last night . . . .
A large crowd attended the hearing held in a church hall and the two women jurors celebrated afterward with a dash of ice cream.”
August 28, 1937 — Daily Messenger
“Conviction of Susan B. Anthony Recalled Here
When Federal Court convenes at the Court House here Sept. 14, the session will not only mark the first in which women jurors will be empanelled for service in Ontario County, but will also recall the conviction here in 1873 of Susan B. Anthony, militant exponent of woman’s suffrage.
According to the Associated Press, Federal officials in Rochester have announced that a jury panel including women has been selected . . . .
It was on Nov. 5, 1872, that Miss Anthony persuaded 14 other Rochester women to vote with her. All of them and three election inspectors were indicted in Federal court of violating the elections law.
Miss Anthony and the inspectors were fined while the indictments against the other women were set aside. She was absolved from payment of a $100 fine and the inspectors, after dodging like payment, were pardoned by President Ulysses S. Grant.”
August 17, 1939 — Reading Times
“Judge Sara Soffel Loves Her Garden, Likes to Fish, and Roots for Pirates;
First Woman Jurist in Pennsylvania is Easy to Talk With, by Martz Schoffstall
If you harbor a delusion that judges are stuffed shirts, make it a point to meet and talk with Judge Sara M. Soffel, Allegheny county jurist. She’ll disillusion you in five minutes’ conversation.
Judge Soffel, who has been on the Allegheny county bench since 1930 and is now a candidate for both the Republican and Democratic nomination for a Pennsylvania supreme court justiceship, was in Reading yesterday to do a bit of campaigning.
Judge Soffel is anything but a stuffed shirt. She leaves all excess dignity in her judicial robes and is easier to talk with than some next-door neighbors.
Far from immuring herself in the white ivory tower of the law, she’s human and real and sensitive to the pulse-beat of the masses.
Does Joe Doakes, the iron puddler, like to spend his holiday along a trout stream? No less does Judge Soffel, who rarely misses wetting a line on the opening day of the trout season. Does Elmer Spivvans, the ribbon clerk, yell his lungs out when the Phillies beat the Pirates? Being a Pittsburgher, the judge isn’t crazy about that turn of events. She’d much rather see the Pirates wallop the Phils, but in any event she’s a baseball fan.
Her other pastimes are flowers and vegetable gardening, which she does in the garden of her Pittsburgh home. When she was at Wellesley, she got her letter in track and played hockey and baseball.
Unique as her job might be, Judge Soffel is a typical American citizen in other respects. And she came by her ‘typical-ness,’ so to speak, in a fairly typical manner. Her father, a German, was on the high seas bound for the United States, to join a brother and sister in Pittsburgh, when the Civil War broke out. The youngster — he was then 17 — immediately volunteered in the Union army, fought throughout the war, and was in the Army of Potomac when the peace of Appomattox was made. By virtue of his service he became an American citizen.
Judge Soffel believes she got her yen for the law and politics from her father, who, after drouth and devastation made homesteading in Kansas too hazardous, was an interpreter of German and French and otherwise was attached to the Allegheny county courts for 40 years.
From the time she hung out her shingle as a practitioner of the law, Judge Soffel was interested and active in politics, but from the time former Governor John S. Fisher appointed her to the bench in 1930 until she started her current campaigning about two months ago, she remained strictly out of politics. That is, with a single exception, when, in 1931, she sought election to the office to which she was appointed.
She didn’t do badly in that first campaign, either. In a field of 31 candidates she was tops, and got the highest vote ever given a judicial candidate in Allegheny county.
In the current campaign, in which she has many male opponents, she says she has ‘a fighting chance, and I’m going to fight.’
‘I feel the same now about the judgeship as I did when New York and Boston reporters ran me down on my way to fish in Maine, when Governor Fisher named me the first woman judge in the state,’ she said yesterday. ‘I believe the administration of justice is the dispassionate application of the well-known principles of law to the every-day problems of human relations, with a mind open to the needs of our changing social and economic life and moral order.’
She has the aid, she said, of thousands of women and many men throughout the state. The women, she thinks, have taken up her banner as a sort of crusade, believing the time has come when a woman should be on the state’s highest tribunal. Not essentially a feminist crusade, either, she feels. It is her conviction that both the men and the women who have come to her aid believe they have found in her a candidate they can truly feel is qualified for the job she’s after. Nine years on the bench of the state’s second largest county would seem to document their case pretty well.
About the law per se, Judge Soffel also has definite ideas. She believes it is a living, fluid, flexible thing, in the interpretation of which proper weight must be given to the way life and living are in daily evolution, daily change. The liberal and progressive approach, she believes, is indicated, and that goes for business and industry as well as for the law.
Judge Soffel spent yesterday in Reading, speaking to women’s groups and conferring with her leaders here. Today she will go to Chambersburg, and by primary day, September 12, she hopes she will have covered all of the state’s 67 counties.
In the meantime she’ll hew to the line, let the ballots fall where they may.”