September 9 — “The Woman Lawyer”


October 29, 1891 — The Daily Times (New Philadelphia, Ohio)

+++++“A woman student of the law, whether in an office or a law school, has some peculiar experiences. To a single woman among a class of men, the dilemma of the lecturers as to a fitting mode of address is amusing. Most of them will gaze anxiously around, and, fixing the eye upon the lone female, with a slight bow will open the discourse with the word ‘Gentlemen.’ One professor was always careful and courteous enough to begin with the phrase: ‘Lady and gentlemen!’
+++++It is also amusing and gratifying to see the refining effect of the lady’s entrance into the lecture hall of the library of the school. If the upraised masculine feet do not at once and voluntarily come down from the table top or back of the next chair, they are assisted to their rightful place on the floor by the hands of some fellow student. Of course there are always some men who heartily disapprove of a woman’s presence within the walls of the law school, and are pleased to show their disapproval in any way short of actually rude conduct. I have never known of systematically rude behavior toward a woman law student.
+++++When the woman lawyer puts out her shingle, or in modern fashion inscribes her name on the marble tablets at the entrance of her building, her first experiences do not differ much from those of her brothers who are just beginning. Perhaps she has a few more ‘cranks’ among her first clients, who go to her because they ‘think they will get sympathy from a woman.’  When sooner or later they have to be shown the door, their reproaches for her inhuman hard-heartedness are particularly severe, because they ‘expected better things from a woman.’
+++++Her clients are not, as many suppose, chiefly women. On the contrary she is more likely to be employed by men, who want to give her a chance to show what she can do.  Therefore her cases are as likely to be questions of business contracts as controversies that are connected with matters popularly supposed to be within a woman’s sphere.
+++++When she appears in court the woman attorney finds the judges and attending counsel as courteous and as deferential as they would be in her drawing room. They will treat her as an equal, except that they will assist her by placing chairs, handing books and papers, and doing more favors for her than for her male colleagues.  In fact they treat her very much as they would treat the distinguished legal lights of the age if they were within the bar, that is, with a deferential courtesy.  This of course is only the case when the woman lawyer behaves as a lady.  If she assumes a defiant and bullying manner, as if to demand special recognition, she will receive the treatment she deserves.  But such conduct is, I am happy to say, extremely rare among our woman at the bar, and is much lamented by others who are in public opinion weighed in the same balance with such misguided persons.
—Mary A. Green, LL.B., in Chautauquan


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