Bernice Selfridge Forbes UMSL 1915

The Montana State University School of Law, later to become the University of Montana School of Law, held its first classes on September 13, 1911.

In 1912, the first woman student, Bernice Forbes, took courses in the law school.   According to a Dedication booklet, celebrating the first fifty years of the law school, and published in 1961,

“Although she had not yet completed her pre-legal work and hence was not included in the registration record of 21 students, Bernice Selfridge (now Mrs. Bernice Selfridge Forbes) was allowed to take two law courses, ‘with the dubious consent of the law faculty.’ . . . This, it may be observed, was two years prior to adoption of the amendment to the Montana Constitution giving women equal suffrage and the right to hold public office, although the Constitution of 1889 had accorded women the right of admission to all departments of the state university. Miss Selfridge, incidentally, was a member of the campus Equal Suffrage Club.”

After graduation in 1915, Ms. Forbes did not practice law. She married in 1918, had two children, and became a teacher and high school principal, mostly in Oregon, for the rest of her work life.

According to the Dedication booklet, twenty-eight women graduated from the law school between 1911 and 1961.  Six of the 28 graduates married law school alumni; of those, three practiced with their husbands.


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