“Portias for Supreme Court” — 1912


16 February 1912 — San Francisco Call

“Portias for Supreme Court; Suffragists Suggest Names of Two” —
+++++Ellen Spencer Mussey is Washington Lawyer of Experience;
+++++Emma M. Gillett, LL.D., a Rival for Exalted Place on Bench”

gillettmussey“A woman lawyer may succeed the late Chief Justice Harlan on the United States supreme court bench. The names of Miss Emma M. Gillett, LL.D., and Mrs. Ellen Spencer Mussey, LL.D., have been suggested to President Taft by the District of Columbia Women Suffrage association. The president has been requested by the association to choose one of the women in making an appointment to fill the vacancy.

+++++Both women have practiced law for many years in the capital city and are prominent in their profession.  Mrs. Mussey has practiced in Washington for more than 20 years.  She obtained from congress the bill giving mothers in the district of Columbia the same right to their children as fathers and giving married women the right to engage in business and control their own earnings.  She is counsel for several national patriotic and labor organizations, is one of the founders of the American Red Cross, dean and founder of Washington college, and past president of the Legion of Loyal Women.
+++++Miss Gillett has practiced law before the United States supreme court in Washington for 10 years and, because of her recognized legal talent, is a formidable rival of Mrs. Mussey for the exalted place on the supreme bench.”


President Taft did not nominate either Ms. Mussey or Ms. Gillett to replace Justice Harlan.  A president did not nominate a woman for a seat on the United States Supreme Court until 1981, about 70 years after this article appeared in print.


 

Women Lawyers


21 August 1890 — Daily Democratwomanscales

+++++“The American female bar is just now receiving its first substantial boom. The novelty of the situation is wearing off; the prejudice in the common mind against the woman lawyer is disappearing; the law departments in the colleges and universities are opening to her; there has come a demand for her services in every substantial legal firm; and the woman herself has learned that the profession is not only possible and practical, but elevating and remunerative. To draft the will or take the acknowledgment or ante-mortem examination of the dying woman her presence is especially welcome. In drafting the details of bills of sale, taking an inventory of household goods, reading the records of real estate, drafting and recording deeds, she is also skillful. — Illustrated American”


19 June 1902 — Tazewell Republican

+++++“There are about twenty-five women lawyers in this city actually engaged in the practice of their profession, some in business for themselves, and some acting as associates with their husbands. Those engaged in the law business alone follow a general practice, while others who do not care to appear in court have take up some special branch of law, such as real estate or the handling of estates.
+++++One woman lawyer claims that there are many women who prefer to consult with women lawyers as they would with women doctors. They feel that a woman lawyer would not take advantage of their ignorance as a man might, and they can ask more questions of a woman than they can of a man without being turned down with scornful looks and gruff answers.  As to fees, the women admit that they do not receive as much money for the same class of work as the men do, except in trial cases, but they seem to be pretty well satisfied with their incomes and do not complain of business being at all slow.
+++++‘How are you treated by the men in court?’ a prominent woman lawyer was asked.
+++++‘When we appear in court,’ she answered, ‘we try to be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible in our manner of conducting cases, and in the court room, as everywhere else in this county, if a woman conducts herself with dignity and courtesy she will receive courteous treatment from men.’
+++++If a woman lawyer loses a case there is no outburst of tears, she puts her hat on, gathers up her papers and goes back to her office to prepare a motion for a new trial or an appeal to a higher court.”


24 July 1902 — Parsons Daily Sunburnet

+++++“Women in the law seem to succeed best in specialties. Some have made reputations in patent law. Many have succeeded in surrogate’s work and real estate practice. The women who have made names for themselves in general practice are few. In New York, Miss Rosalie Loew has a practice of which many well-to-do men lawyers might be proud.
+++++There is said to be great opposition to the idea of professional women, and especially to women lawyers. Personally, I find that everybody treats me well. Judges have always been remarkably kind, and opposing lawyers respectful. SO FAR I HAVE FOUND MY SEX AN ADVANTAGE RATHER THAN A HINDRANCE.
+++++Women who wish to pursue the law as a profession should have not only a college education and law school certificate, but knowledge of the world. They should knock about for a year, and come in contact with all kinds of people, before attempting to practice.
+++++The usual trouble with women as lawyers as yet is that they are either too modest or too much the reverse. They are too new in the profession. They are too self-conscious, and take themselves too seriously.
+++++After all, the chief difference between men and women in the court room is CLOTHES. To this people will in time grow accustomed.
+++++Most women are better fitted for the fireside than for the court room. But if a woman has the proper qualities of mind for the bar, and is enthusiastic in her work, her chance of success in the law is a man’s chance. HE BUILDS ON STUDY, WORK, CHARACTER.  SO MUST SHE.”


23 January 1903 — Parsons Daily Sun

carpenter

+++++“One of the things that are drawing an increasing number of women to the study of law is the feminine gift for detail.
+++++Many people, looking at law from the outside, think of it as something large and mysterious, instead of which it is a matter of small accuracies. In legal work women find a multiplication of definite, exact littles, for dealing with which their native orderliness, nicety and passion for going into particulars seem especially suited.
+++++Under present day conditions office practice is nine-tenths of legal work. While women succeed in court, it is for office practice that they appear particularly gifted. In the drawing up of legal papers and the search for references in the preparation of cases women’s thoroughness and conscientious patience serve them in good stead.
+++++The same faithfulness and reliability that cause women to be preferred as stenographers make them as lawyers proficient in the office.
+++++Indeed, numbers of women have passed into law from stenography. Having learned the routine of a lawyer’s office, they attend law classes to gain a theoretical understanding of the work and make themselves more valuable to their employers; from this they pass to a serious study of the profession.
+++++In New York the number of women engaged in the practice of law increases slowly but steadily. The work of these women is quiet and unobtrusive, but progress is substantial.”


1 April 1903 — Daily Free Press

+++++“The Field for the Woman Lawyer
++++++++++by Fanny Hallock Carpenter”

+++++“There’s a woman at bottom of every lawsuit.
+++++Woman is the pivotal point around which the world revolves.  She is in everything that concerns humanity.  It is, therefore, a perfectly natural inference that she should be at the bottom of all things in law, as in everything else.
+++++Everything, from the theft of a fortune to the evasion of a gas bill, has a woman as its background.  Woman in a law case occupies one of three positions.  She is the motive, the instrument or the victim.  Nine times out of ten she is the ‘extenuating circumstance,’ which, despite any other role she may play in the drama, will influence the verdict.
+++++The purely feminine law case, where both accuser and accused are women, is more likely to be complex than that in which the man and woman are involved.  Women have curious memories and make ingenious application of seemingly unimportant details.
+++++A woman in love, a woman in hate and a woman in pure selfishness are the three phases of femininity that come before the law.  Of the three the woman in hate is usually the most persistent and the woman in love the most interesting to the jury.   A breach of promise suit awakens a certain sort of chivalry, especially if the plaintiff be good looking.
+++++The field for the woman lawyer is the finding of the woman in the case.   A woman would be quick to recognize just where the feminine touch came into a case.   A man might blunder, but she has her own knowledge of herself to guide her.  She can divine what the woman’s aims have been, whether she is an adventuress or an injured innocent.  She is not likely to be blinded by any of the small feminine subterfuges that might deceive a man.  She is a woman and sees through them.  She can divine the cause of a woman’s lie where a man would be stopped by the lie itself.  In short, the woman is the natural detective where the woman is concerned.”


Clarence Darrow & Women Lawyers


21 December 1916 — Plain Dealer

+++++++++++++++“When Portia Wields a Quill” by Lora Kelly

+++++“A new magazine called ‘Oyez’ managed and edited by women has begun publication in New York. The purpose of the magazine, according to its founders, is to call attention of women to their lack of legal status in this country and to open an inquiry column through which they may be advised free of charge.
+++++That is a daring piece of effrontery on their part, after Mr. Clarence Darrow, famed defender of the oppressed, had definitely settled their status in the profession.

Clarence Darrow (Library of Congress)

Clarence Darrow (Library of Congress)

+++++‘You can’t be shining lights at the bar,’ said Mr. Darrow, ‘because you are too kind.’
+++++‘You can never be corporation lawyers because you are not cold-blooded. You have not a high grade of intellect.
+++++‘You can never expect to get the fees that men get. I doubt if you will ever make a living. Of course you can be divorce lawyers. That is a useful field.’
+++++Somehow Mr. Darrow’s remarks sound strangely familiar. In the early part of the nineteenth century precisely the same logic was brought to bear upon the advocates of higher education for women.
+++++‘Send a woman to college? The very idea! Education will unfit a woman for motherhood, make her less companionable to man, and destroy her feminine bloom.’
+++++The ‘feminine bloom,’ whatever that is, failed to suffer. Women remained fundamentally the same as far as their sex was concerned, but mightily improved in matters of the intellect. Even if the pioneer institutions did make mistakes, sometimes ludicrous ones, such as the providing of bootjacks for the girls at Vassar, they blazed the way for education of young men and women on an equal basis.
+++++Woman has ever had an instinctive fear of the law. Having nothing to do with its making, nothing to do with its administration, not ever permitted to study it in some quarters, and coming in contact with it only as ‘the prisoner at the bar,’ is it any wonder that she regards it as uncharted territory!
+++++The Portias who are endeavoring to enlighten their sisters as to what is nominated in the bond apparently believe that what woman wants is ‘not power over man but more power over herself.'”


Full-Fledged Girl Lawyer. Next.

25 October 1882 — Daily Yellowstone Journal

+++++“A Connecticut girl recently admitted as a full-fledged lawyer has her hands full of business, the little state seems to lead in the production of wonderful women. She [Connecticut] has already given to the world eight female circus riders, a modern Borgia, the Smith sisters of ‘Cow’ fame . . ., and Jennie Cramer, and now caps the climax with a female lawyer, who wears ready-made broadcloth pantaloons. Next.”


“Smith sisters of ‘Cow’ fame: http://connecticuthistory.org/the-smith-sisters-their-cows-and-womens-rights-in-glastonbury/

The Murder of Jennie Cramer: http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/jennie-cramer-new-havens-beautiful-victim-1881/

Women & the Title “Esquire”

7 April 1901— Denver Post

“Learned Judges Puzzled Over the Title Esquire;
In Doubt as to Whether it is Proper to Place it After the Name of a Woman Lawyer”

+++++“The three justices of the supreme court, the clerk, the deputy clerk, the stenographers and the bailiff have all been wrestling for two days with a legal problem and have not yet reached a solution. The question is whether the title ‘esquire’ can be properly applied to a young lady, even though that young lady be a law graduate, and the recipient of a certificate at the hands of the highest court in the state.
+++++Miss Flora E. Sillimen has successfully passed the examination before the great tribunal, and is entitled to a certificate. The clerk was filling out the certificate, and had gotten as far as the blank left for the name of the fair lawyer. He filled in the name ‘Flora E. Silliman,’ then looked at the word next following in the printed form, and scratched his head. Then he called Judge Gabbert.
+++++‘Judge, shall I leave in this word “esquire” after the young lady’s name?’
+++++‘Why, yes — no — really — I haven’t considered such a thing. Let me see. I’ll have to take the case under advisement. Go call Judge Campbell.’
+++++The chief justice hemmed and hawed, and said the question had never been raised before. He sent for Judge Steele.
+++++He, too, said that the question was one the like of which man had never yet been called upon to decide. The four argued the case, and then sent for the other court attaches to give opinions. There being but two sides to the question, there is of necessity some uniformity of opinion on each side; but no two have the same reason for their respective opinions.
+++++Webster says that ‘esquire’ comes from the French word ‘ecuyer,’ a shield bearer; which in turn comes from the Latin ‘scutum,’ a shield. But he says nothing about the title ever being bestowed upon or refused to a maiden. So that Webster doesn’t help out at all.
+++++As a consequence of this legal point the young lady’s certificate has been temporarily withheld. The learned gentlemen never seem to have thought of asking her whether she prefers to be called by the disputed title. She would settle the case in ten seconds.”


Modern Portias 1901


January 27, 1901 — Sunday Leader

“How Women Lawyers Have Sprung Into Existence within the Last Ten Years”

+++++“When the world at large first heard the term ‘woman lawyer,’ it shuddered. Before the eyes of conservative womanhood there arose the vision of an unsexed and masculine being with blatant voice and ‘sassy’ ways, a woman who could take her place in a courtroom opposite a man lawyer and give him as good billingsgate as he gave her. There was nothing attractive about this creature as her own sex viewed her. She was sure to be old, soured and homely, with slipshod attire, in which the green bag and an enormous pair of spectacles played in important part. Worst of all, nice men would have nothing to do with her. They would stand aloof and look down upon her with the bitterest contempt.
+++++The point of view of the men was somewhat different, but they were equally disgusted. They saw in their mind’s eye a frivolous creature in an extravagant costume tripping into the courtroom and airing her ignorance there. She would make eyes at the judge, at the jury and more than probably at the opposing counsel; but, as for logic or anything of that sort — dear me, who had ever heard of a woman who could argue except in a circle? If the opposing lawyer treated her as he would a man and politely intimated that she was a liar, she would immediately burst into tears or give him to understand that he was speaking to a lady, and she would trouble him to remember it, etc. Altogether men thought this would be the best way to squelch the woman lawyer — treat her like a man, give her a few extra hard raps and then let her go home to have a good cry and give it all up for good and all.
+++++The world received the surprise of its life.  The woman lawyer arrived on the scene and she proved to be neither old, homely nor soured.  In fact she was quite young. She had a nice, fresh looking face — a face that told of a healthy mind in a healthy body — and she had a pair of very sharp, clear eyes which looked unflinchingly at the world and at everything in it.  There was a little determined look about her chin, too, as if she meant business.  The world stared at her, but that didn’t annoy her in the least.  She was very quiet and did not make any fuss at all.  She took an office and hung out her sign, ‘Miss Woman, Attorney and Counselor at Law.’ Then she waited for clients.  She didn’t have to wait very long either.  First people came out of curiosity and then they staid for better reasons. That was ten years ago, and now there are women lawyers all over the United States, and they don’t show any signs of being crowded out of the business either.
+++++Why in New York city alone there are enough women to form a club.  There are 15 members and most of them have more business than they can attend to. There is Miss Edith Griswold, who is acknowledged to be an authority on patent law, trademarks and copyright matters.  Miss Rosalie Loew is attorney for the Legal Aid society, which assists the poor who have trouble with their landlords.  I may add in passing that last year Miss Loew dealt with 5,692 cases.  Miss Fanny Hallock Carpenter has for her law partner her husband, Philip Carpenter.  Miss Edith August Reiffert began her law studies while serving as a stenographer for a firm of bankers and is so successful that she has hardly a moment to herself.  Miss Helen L. Blondel, whose specialty is real estate law, is one of three New York women who have studied in an office without following a regular university law course.  It is only lack of space which prevents my telling of the good work done by the others.
+++++But says the woman who reads this:  ‘You haven’t said anything about what one must do to become a lawyer.  I’d like to hear a little about that.’
+++++Well, there are two ways.  One is to take a three years’ law course at some university.  After the student graduates she receives her diploma and the degree of LL. D.   Then she must appear before the law commissioners or committee on examinations appointed by the law to pass the regular bar examination.  This is extremely rigorous, and when it is passed safely she has yet to appear before a judge of the supreme court to take her oath of office and of allegiance to her state and country and to file her admission under oath with the clerk of the court of appeals. When all this has been complied with, she becomes a regular lawyer, with the right to practice in the courts of the state.  The requirements are more or less similar in all the states, but in Illinois, so I understand, the graduate of a regular law school is admitted to the bar without further examination.
+++++The other way of doing it is to enter a lawyer’s office in some useful capacity and study under him.  There are several advantages in this.  This would be lawyer who has practical experience from almost the very first, and then, too, there is the opportunity of making acquaintances which may bring clients during the period of waiting which inevitably follows admittance to the bar.
+++++‘There is a great future for women lawyers,’ said Miss Griswold as we sat talking over the matter in her office.  ‘In the first place, they have convinced men of their business ability and shrewdness, and they are respected by their brother lawyers.  Then, too, the woman attorney is thoroughly honest, and the proverbially helpless widows and orphans need not fear to put their interests in her hands.  As for this talk about feminine lawyers being new women, it is all nonsense.  They have large hearts and strong common sense, and there isn’t a single one among them who wouldn’t marry tomorrow if she found a man worthy of her.
+++++Miss Griswold’s own appearance is anything but mannish.  She is a dainty, charming woman, with a soft, low voice and eyes which, though they could be very sharp and compelling on occasion, yet display, as a rule, only the kindliest expression.
+++++‘You ask me if I have suffered from lack of courtesy on the part of the male lawyers.’  She said, ‘No.  On the whole I find that I have been treated with the greatest politeness.  In law, you know, as in everything else, much depends on the bearing of the woman.  Of course now and then rarely I meet a man who acts in a childish manner, who sulks or tries to ignore the woman lawyer with whom he has business relations.  We always feel sorry for such a man,’ she added, with her little laugh, ‘because we realize how awfully behind the times he is.  He generally realizes it in the end himself, and is usually very much ashamed of the figure he has cut in the eyes of his fellow practitioners.’
++++++++++Robitaille de la Baume.”

Helen R Lally, Associate Librarian U.S. Supreme Court


HelenLally Independent Record

HelenLally
Independent Record, 5/6/1937

Helen Rose Lally, born in 1912, in Butte, Montana, was never admitted to practice in Montana, although she hoped to be after she retired from her service as a librarian to the United States Supreme Court.

Quoting from an article in the Independent Record (Helena, Montana) on 10 November 1965:

+++++“A Montana woman who has been closely associated with the justices of the Supreme Court for almost a quarter of a century has been appointed associate librarian of the court.
+++++She is Helen Rose Lally, referred to in a recent book on Justice Felix Frankfurter as librarian, lawyer and researcher for the justices, and one of two persons through whom the clerks of the court had the closest contact with the justices.
+++++Miss Lally won a law degree from Georgetown University while working at the Supreme Court library.
+++++Chief Justice Earl Warren administered the oath of office Monday to the court’s new librarian, H. C. Hallam Jr., and to Miss Lally, an assistant librarian in the court since 1941.
+++++A native of Butte, Mont., Miss Lally taught at Harrison, Mont., High School following graduation from St. Catherine’s College, St. Paul, Minn.
+++++She served as a librarian at Holy Cross College, Worchester, Mass., and at Carroll College, Helena, Mont., before becoming a library assistant for the Justice Department here in 1937.
+++++Miss Lally is a member of the bar of the Supreme Court, the District Court for the District of Columbia, and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
+++++‘When I retire from government service I hope to get admitted to the Montana bar and practice there,’ she told a reporter.”

Ms. Lally went to Washington, D.C., in 1937 to serve as a library assistant for the Department of Justice. She left there to work for the United States Supreme Court, serving as an Assistant Librarian from 1941 to 1965, when she was sworn in as Associate Librarian. She retired in 1967 and returned to Butte. She died at the end of December 1968.