24 May 1918 — Daily Inter Lake — “Law Students Scarce Now at University”
“There will be but one male member of the graduating class of the law school of the state university who will receive an LL. B. degree this year. That distinction is held by Emin C. Prestbye, manager of the Associated Students of the University of Montana. The law school service flag with its 52 stars gives mute testimony of the reason why there are no more men in the school to qualify for the degree. There are three women, however, who will be given the coveted LL. B. on graduation day. They are Miss Edna Rankin, Miss M. Frances Garrigus and Mrs. G. M. Bailey.”
2 September 1922 — Wichita Beacon — “The Woman Lawyer”
“The persistent refusal of Columbia University to admit women to its Law school has brought forth the following editorial comment from The Woman Citizen:
‘Of course there isn’t any real argument in rebuttal. There is nothing essentially masculine about the profession of law. There is, to be sure, the detail that the laws to be administered were made by men, largely in the interests of men, but that is an additional reason for having women employed in their administration. The material that the law applies to is humankind, not merely mankind. Woman’s point of view is needed at the bar and on the bench, fifty-fifty, as it is needed in other departments of life; and it is specifically needed in children’s courts and courts of domestic relations. Moreover, the old notion that women never have that mystical endowment, the “legal mind,” has been well exploded, as witness a fairly long list of women lawyers (so many that it takes more than one special magazine to record their activities) and a growing list of impressive woman judges and magistrates.’
List of Universities Open to Women Desiring to Study Law:
Boston University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, New York University, Washington State, George Washington University, Northwestern University, Yale University, Brooklyn Law School of St. Lawrence University
MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY
11 February 1923 — The Butte Miner — “Women Who Have Made Good”
“Very few women have graduated from the law school, but all who have received degrees here have had good standings. Helen Fredericks, who received her degree in law, graduated with the highest average of any student in the school’s history. She has worked as law clerk in the office of the United States district attorney, E. L. Slattery, and previous to that, she was connected with the office of Attorney General Wellington D. Rankin. Another graduate of this school is Mrs. Jane Bailey, who received her L.L. B. in law in 1918. Mrs. Bailey is now an attorney-at-law in Missoula and probation officer of that city.”
10 October 1936 — Great Falls Tribune — “Two Women Taking Law School Course”
“Margaret (Peggy) Holmes, Helena, once against is known as ‘the only woman in the law school.’
Last year Peggy enrolled as a freshman in the law school and became the chief object of barrister funsters until Jessie Walton, Columbia Falls, joined Peggy’s class.
‘When Jessie Walton returns in about two weeks, I’ll surely welcome her with open arms,’ Peggy says, ‘because there are approximately 75 men enrolled in the law school this year..'”
18 January 1939 — The Missoulian — “Peggy Holmes Gets Job in Washington”
“Margaret Holmes, former Helena girl who took a degree in law at Montana State University this year, could have had 87 dates every day of the year — she was that popular.
Miss Holmes was the only woman among 88 students taking law, and rumor always had it that ‘Peggy’ had the boys practically enslaved. What’s more, she was their equal when grade time came around.
Miss Holmes recently joined the review staff of the Labor Relations board in Washington, D. C. They told her she was crazy when she, a woman, tried for a legal job. But she got it.
Miss Holmes is the eleventh woman in the 27-year history of the law school to get a law degree. The last was in 1933. During those 27 years 297 men have been granted degrees.”
1 April 1956 – The Missoulian — Law School Law Librarians
“The first full-time librarian, Miss Lois James, was appointed in 1924. Until that time, law students had worked as part-time librarians. Miss Gwendolyn B. Folsom, present law librarian, says that it is interesting to recall that Justin D. Miller, noted educator and jurist, served as a student assistant in charge of the library during 1912-13. Of the five full-time librarians since 1924, Miss Charlotte Russel occupied the post for the longest period, serving from September, 1926, until her retirement in September, 1951.”
14 April 1957 — The Missoulian — “Law Students’ Wives Give Visitors Tea”
“Law Students’ Wives Club of Montana State University entertained with a tea yesterday afternoon at the Law House for women whose husbands are participating in the first annual Law Weekend of MSU Law School. There were about 60 guests in attendance, including as special guests Mesdames William J. Jameson, James T. Harrison and Lester Loble, wives of judges, and wives of the Law School faculty.
Spring flowers were used as decorations for the affair. The tea was arranged by a committee including Mrs. Ben Craig, president of the wives’ club, and Mesdames Bob Jasperson, Charles Willey, Richmond Allan and Don Matthews.
6 September 1961 — Great Falls Tribune — “Distaff Students Active in Law School’s History”
“In an admirable if somewhat reluctant demonstration of advanced thinking, the University of Montana Law School admitted its first woman student in 1912, two years before the adoption of the amendment to the Montana Constitution giving women the vote.
Bernice Selfridge (now Mrs. Bernice Selfridge Forbes) had not completed her pre-legal work and so was not included in the 1912 registration of 21 students but was allowed to take two law classes.
It is recorded that this concession was made ‘with the dubious consent of the law faculty.’ Miss Selfridge, incidentally, was a member of the Campus Equal Suffrage Club.
By 1915-16 there were four women enrolled, and for 40 years thereafter, until the fall of 1957, there were only two years in which no women were registered.
The Law School has graduated 28 women, including such pioneers of their sex as Geraldine O’Hara Grant, ’26 (now Mrs. Geraldine O’Hara MacDonald), Hamilton city attorney from 1929 to 1934, and Opal Louise Replogle, ’46 (now Mrs. Wellington D. Rankin), Fergus county attorney in 1947. Mrs. Rankin is thought to be the first women to hold the office of county attorney in Montana. [Insert — Emily E. Sloan, county attorney of Carbon County from 1925 through 1926, was the first woman to hold the office of county attorney in Montana.]
Six of the 28 women married Law School alumni and three of these are practicing law in partnership with their husbands.
A further letting down of the barristers’ bars came in 1946. That year the Law School Association voted to admit the five women then enrolled to that male sanctum sanctorum, the association’s smoker.
Another woman, Miss Charlotte Russel, figures prominently in the annals of the Law School. Miss Russel, known to generations of law students as ‘the Chief,’ served as law librarian from 1926 until her retirement in 1951. After Miss Russel died in 1957, many former students joined her sister in establishing a Charlotte Russel Memorial Fund to help deserving law freshman.”
4 April 1965 — Great Falls Tribune — “Prejudice Nil in Law School”
“How do you like this percentage, girls? Eight-nine men to one woman student where Roberta Walsh goes to school? It’s the law school at Montana State University.
Miss Walsh, daughter of Mr and Mrs. Roger W. Walsh, . . ., finds there is so much studying to do, however, that she hardly has time to notice how many men there are.
Though women who pioneered in law found great prejudice against their sex, both in school and in professional practice, Miss Walsh says she has never been aware of any prejudice on the part of either her professors or fellow-students.
A woman in the law school is not so rare at MSU. There have been 140 co-eds enrolled since the law school was founded in 1911 but when Miss Walsh receives her degree in the spring of 1966 she will be the 29th woman graduate. The others either found the going too rough or other interests too enticing. The last woman to receive a law degree at MSU was Antoinette Boyle who earned hers in 1955 and has since been practicing in partnership with her husband, Daryl Engebregson, in Laurel.
After her graduation from Smith College in 1962, Miss Walsh worked a year for a legal publishing firm in San Francisco. She wanted to be sure before she began a rugged law course that she would prefer law to business. Four of the 80 attorneys who did business with the San Francisco firm were women. Two who were past 50 had many stories of hardships, prejudice and struggle. The younger two reported little discrimination against women lawyers form judges, businessmen or potential clients.
In the MSU Law School the students go to class six days a week and study nearly every night and often most of the weekend. At coffee time in the student lounge or in the law library Miss Walsh is usually surrounded by male students.
‘They usually watch their language when I’m around — that’s about the only deference I can see,’ she says.
She worked in the office of a Great Falls law firm last summer and loved it — hopes to do the same this summer, and eventually to go into general law practice. Her older brother, Bill, a graduate of the law school of San Francisco, is in business with his father here. Her younger brother, Jim, a senior at Georgetown University, may enroll in MSU Law School next year. Who knows, maybe a brother-sister law partnership some day?”
6 September 1973 — The Missoulian — “Law School Changing”
” . . . . There will be nine women in the incoming freshman class. Eleven were accepted but two have changed their minds. The law school’s assistant dean, Sandra Muckleston, is a woman. Sullivan insists she’s not a ‘token woman’ on the staff; she is there because of her potential and capacity to do the job.
‘In accepting women to the profession we are not male chauvinists,’ Sullivan said. ‘Women stand on their own two feet, and they perform very well.’
But there is a problem placing the women graduates in jobs, Muckleston, who is in charge of placement, admitted. When people are reluctant to hire a woman, she is encountering actual discrimination. She said the sporadic graduation of women in the past has made it difficult to predict what will happen when there is a more consistent number of women graduates. There are eight women in the senior class and nine in the junior class.
But there are more women going into law practice, she noted, mentioning several Montana graduates who have joined firms and one 2-woman firm in Billings. In the past, most women have worked in more secure areas, than private practice, she said. . . .”
[This is a brief excerpt from a much longer news article.]
17 October 1974 — The Independent Record — “Montana’s Women Lawyers — Problems in a Man’s Domain”
“A young woman attorney was questioning a male witness in federal court in Missoula last spring.
‘Yes, sir, er, ma’am,’ or ‘No, sir, er, ma’m,’ he would respond awkwardly to each of her questions. Finally in frustration, the witness gave up and kept addressing her as ‘sir.’
‘You’re in what has always been a male role to him, and he just can’t reconcile it,’ the attorney, Helena Maclay, said later. Though minor, the incident indicates the problems facing women who enter the traditionally male practice of law.
Maclay, who grew up in Missoula, graduated from Northwestern University law school and worked as a clerk for a federal judge before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in Billings, is one of the few women lawyers in Montana courtrooms today. But more women are applying for the University of Montana law school, and more are expected to practice law in the state in the coming years.
A survey of women lawyers in Montana indicates some are doing well. But some have encountered problems a male attorney would not face, and others have reported that jobs often are difficult to find for women lawyers, especially for those right out of law school.
One who didn’t have trouble is Bonnie B. Swandal, the wife of a Wilsall rancher, she began studying law through a correspondence course. After her husband died, Swandal passed the Montana bar exam, and has practiced law the past seven years.
Establishing a law practice in Livingston, which is about a half-hour drive from the Swandal ranch, posed no problems.
‘I have lived here all my life,’ Swandal said. ‘When I established a practice, I was lucky because I knew a lot of people.’
She formed a partnership with a male lawyer two years ago, and they have a general law practice with clients of both sexes. Swandal said she has never felt she was discriminated against because of her sex and believes that being a woman actually has helped at times.
‘I have a high percentage of child custody cases,’ she said. ‘I think men and women feel freer to talk to me.’
Two Billings attorneys, Diane Barz and Doris Poppler, formed a partnership 18 months ago.
‘We are doing really well,’ Barz said. They handle a lot of business-oriented legal work and have both male and female clients.
Two Great Falls lawyers have the only other all-woman partnership in Montana. Dorothy Hatfield and her sister, Joan Conley, have been practicing law together since 1965. They have a general practice with both male and female clients but do not handle criminal matters.
Helena attorney Diana S. Dowling recently resigned as executive director of the Montana Bar Association to become director of research and legal services for the state Legislative Council, the research arm of the legislature. Dowling previously worked as an attorney for former Gov. Forrest H. Anderson and the Montana Constitutional Convention.
Another woman lawyer, Sandra R. Muckelston, has begun her third year as assistant dean of the UM law school.
Despite the success of these women, the picture isn’t as rosy as it might appear.
For example, finding a job is often difficult.
A woman attorney may be hired by a government agency, but she isn’t likely to find a job with a private law firm unless she starts it herself.
‘I think a definite bias exists on the part of many law firms throughout the state of Montana which would not hire a woman lawyer,’ said Muckelston, who helps find jobs for UM graduates.
‘A lot is premised on the believe that Montana juries won’t accept women practitioners,’ she said. ‘There are some very successful women practicing law in Montana, which indicates to me they aren’t having any trouble with juries.’
Diane Barz agreed.
‘There is no question there is discrimination, but it’s opening up,’ she said. ‘A young, inexperience lawyer has to work twice as hard to prove herself.’
When Barz was interviewed by law firms, she said lawyers in several firms ‘worried about my husband’s career and where it would take us.’
A woman lawyer in a law firm faces other problems, she acknowledged.
‘You have to travel and are in the company of male lawyers,’ Barz said. ‘The men have wives who don’t appreciate it.’
Emilie Loring, a 1973 law school graduate said she encountered no discrimination when she was job hunting but added she was looking for a position in the specialized field of labor law.
‘Montana firms, I think, are going to have to look at what they are missing in terms of not employing women,’ said Loring, who is now in private practice in Great Falls.
‘Federal equal employment opportunity laws apply to law firms of 15 or more persons, and the state’s few large firms may be inviting discrimination suits if they don’t begin hiring women, she said.
‘In big firms elsewhere, at least they have the token woman,’ Loring said. ‘Here they don’t even have the token woman.’
Helena Maclay said it is becoming ‘very fashionable’ for big city firms to hire a woman lawyer — fashionable but also tokenism to avoid discrimination suits.
Several of her female classmates at Northwestern were ‘hired and used as decoration, stored in the library and not permitted to take an active role with the practice,’ she said. Others, however, went into firms and excelled, she said.
When job hunting in Chicago, Maclay said representatives of some firms told her she wouldn’t fit into their practice because other lawyers, secretaries and clients would not accept her or that they had no provisions for a woman lawyer who became pregnant and needed time off.
‘That kind of firm is a target for a discrimination suit because they have been honest,’ she said.
But others are more subtle.
‘They treat you in a way that they make you feel they want women there,’ Maclay said. Lawyers from these firms discuss salaries and the types of clients they will have. they give the impression they are considering women on the basis of merit, not sex, to protect themselves from any discrimination suits, she said.
Maclay emphasized she was referring only to her interviews in Chicago, but she said representatives of one Great Falls firm told her they would not consider her for a job because she is a woman.
Women should not become defensive if they are rejected for a job because the firm may have picked a better qualified applicant, she said.
‘I don’t consider myself militant to win a place for womankind to the exclusion of all men,” Maclay said.
Loring added that ‘every woman who gets out and practices in a new town is going to make it that much easier for others to do it in the future.’
But once a woman lawyer finds a job, the problems aren’t over.
Some are snubbed by male attorneys who believe a woman’s place is in the kitchen, not the courtroom.
‘I’ve heard some male lawyers say: “She is just a play lawyer in a miniskirt running around with a briefcase,”‘ Dowling said.
Hatfield said ‘older male attorneys really haven’t quite gotten used to the idea.’
‘They really don’t take a woman attorney seriously,’ she said. ‘The younger attorneys, after plowing through law school with female law students aren’t as patronizing.’
Loring said she hasn’t encountered condescension from other lawyers, perhaps because she is middle-aged.
‘A guy of 27 just can’t look down on me,’ she said. ‘He doesn’t have the guts.’
Adds Maclay: ‘I can’t say that the profession treats me badly openly. People don’t come up and spit in your face, but it’s clear from comments that people don’t think you should be there.’
Some male lawyers ‘feel more on the spot than I do,’ she added.
‘Some older lawyers are particularly tongue-tied,’ she said, so she tries to put them at ease. Those who call Maclay ‘babe,’ ‘sweetie’ and ‘doll’ don’t impress her.
‘It would be offensive to me whether or not I were a lawyer,’ Maclay said. The only reason they rely on those sexist labels is because they make no effort to try to remember her name, she said.
Women interviewed scoffed at the idea that Montana juries aren’t ready for female attorneys.
‘I think it’s stupid,’ Barz said. ‘If you encounter a male chauvinist in voir fire (the jury selection process), you can tell him a mile off.’ Barz said she can spot male jurors who don’t a woman seriously because they answer questions in a demeaning manner or flash telltale expressions.
‘There are women, too who feel women don’t belong in the courtroom,’ she added.
‘Even if a juror is astounded by having a woman lawyer in the courtroom, he is usually intrigued and listens all the more closely, which is a definite advantage,’ Barz said.
Maclay agreed, saying juries may pay more attention to a woman lawyer, which ‘sometimes can be worked to your advantage.’
Another woman lawyer, who did not want to be identified, said: ‘I think Montana juries are more ready for women lawyers than Montana judges.
Others didn’t agree. Maclay, who faces federal court judges, said they treat her no differently than they treat male attorneys.
One Supreme Court justice, Gene B. Daly, praised women lawyers.
‘The ones we see here don’t take a backseat to anyone,’ he said, adding that he expects to see women judges in Montana before long.”
12th of a series, by Charles S. Johnson and Charles Hood, Jr.
17 December 1974 — Montana Standard — “More women going to UM law school”
“Women may be greatly outnumbered at the University of Montana law school, but it’s not as lonely as it once was.
Two Montana attorneys separately recalled being the only female law student during part of their time at UM. Each told of spending a lot of time studying on the couch in the ladies’ room.
It would take an enlarged ladies’ room and several more davenports to hold the women attending the law school today.
Twenty-six women out of a total enrollment of 206 students are attending the UM law school this year.
The first woman [Bernice Selfridge] graduated from the UM law school in 1914, its third year of operation. A few others graduated every few years, and by 1961, a law school history noted that 28 women had received UM law degrees, a tiny fraction of the number of men graduating.
More women have been admitted to law school in recent years.
During the 1973-74 school year, 19 women — two seniors, eight juniors and nine freshman — were among the 185 students enrolled in UM’s law school. That comes out to 10.2 per cent women, somewhat below the national average of 15.8 per cent in law schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) in 1973-74 but about in line with law schools in neighboring states. Wyoming (11.3 percent women) and North Dakota (10.9 per cent) both topped the UM law school, but UM finished ahead of law schools at South Dakota (9.6 per cent), Idaho (9.3 per cent) and Gonzaga (5.2 per cent)
Law schools at the Universities of Washington (24.6 per cent), Colorado (20.8 per cent) and Oregon (20 per cent) were ahead of the national average of women students.
Assistant UM Dean Sandra R. Muckelston said nine women were admitted to the freshman class this year out of the 20 or 25 women who applied.”
by Charles S. Johnson and Charles E. Hood Jr.
30 April 1975 — The Missoulian — “Women Discover Careers in Law”
“[Editor’s note: the following story was written by Betsy Scanlin, a member of the Women’s Caucus in the University of Montana Law School.]”
“‘Uppity’ women are discovering a new opening available to them: the law.
Whereas a woman in law was once as rare as a chief justice without a black robe, today women are showing up in the profession in greater numbers each year. One indication of their presence is law school.
Presently, women account for 24 of the total 199 students in the University of Montana Law School, compared with fewer than a handful five years ago. Banded together under a group called Women’s Caucus, 15 of the students proved this year that women in law can successfully affect politics, the legal profession, and attitudes themselves.
Tops on caucus projects this year was legislation.
Among topics such as women’s status in employment, marriage and divorce, the group researched legislative bills dealing with both women’s and men’s rights. Bills studied by the group included patronizing a prostitute, rape, maternity leave from employment, property rights within marriage, and support and child custody upon divorce.
Other areas of legislative reform tackled by the group include the legal residence of women, head-of-family designations, and adoption rights of the unwed father.
Four of the five top issues passed through the Montana Legislature after caucus members testified in behalf of them.
Women students are also working to encourage more of their sex to consider law as a profession.
‘Women in Law Day,’ officially proclaimed Wednesday by both Mayor Robert Brown and UM President Richard Bowers, is part of the women students’ program. Held in connection with National Law Day, a program on women in law will be at 7:30 p.m. at the law school.
Acceptance of women in law has been slow, and is still incomplete. Contributing to acceptance, however, has been women’s participation in legal activities.
Participation in the school has proved beneficial to acceptance. In the past year, two of the women, Joan Uda and Candice Fetscher, have been members of the prestigious Law Review publication staff; Myrtle Rae Wilson has been an officer of the UM Student Bar Association and Carol Mitchell has been lieutenant govern-elect of the Ninth district, Student Bar Association.
Women also have consistently shown academic achievement in the school, whether the edge is study habits or ‘brains.’ Statistics showing women applicants to law school as having consistently higher average test scores are an indication of their ability to handle subject matter.
Academics and school activities are not the only achievements of women students, however. they’ve taken to the ‘fields’ of intramural college sports as well.
Setting school precedents for women law student teams are the ‘Ms. Trials’ which have recently been joined by a freshman women’s team.
Whether it’s participation in sports, studies, or student bar, women in law are beginning to find greater acceptance in the profession. Gradually, with more women breaking the ice in the profession itself, women in law may become as common as a chief justice in black.”
30 April 1975 — The Missoulian — “‘Women in Law Day’ to be Observed”
“‘Women in Law Day’ is Wednesday, Aril 30, by proclamation of Mayor Robert Brown.
In recognition of the occasion, women students at the University of Montana Law School will present a program on women in law at 7:30 p.m. that day at the school.
Topics of the panel discussion will be: ‘Law School: How to Get In. How to Stay In. How to Get Out. What to do Then.’
Panelists will be Sandy Muckelston, assistant dean of the University Law School; Mae Nan Ellingson, junior in law; Joan Uda, senior in law; and Peg Tonon, deputy county attorney of Ravalli County from Hamilton.
A question-and-answer period will follow the discussion.
Informal group discussions are also planned. Subjects to be covered include: Special problems of women in Law School, such as care of family, money, financial aid; a course of study for the woman in law such as subject matter of courses, methods of instruction, testing procedures and internship and extracurricular activities such as law review, intramural sports, women’s caucus and Student Bar Association.
There will be a group leader for each of the discussions.
Interested women of all ages are invited to attend and participate.
The special program is in connection with National Law Day, May 1.”
11 April 1976 — Independent Record — “Law caucus gets grant”
“The Woman’s Law Caucus, a branch of the Student Bar Association at the University of Montana in Missoula, has been awarded a $150 grant by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association to finance the Women’s Law Caucus Counseling and Recruitment Program.
Diane Rotering, Clancy, a second-year law student at UM, who is project director, said the primary goal of the recruitment program is to encourage and promote increased enrollment of women in the University of Montana Law School.
Pamphlets featuring the UM Law School will be mailed to high school, junior colleges and universities within Montana. The material will include an explanation of what must be done to apply to law school, a list of opportunities to women attorneys.
There are now 30 women students at the UM Law School out of a total enrollment of 214, and seven women will gradaute from the Law School this year.”
6 April 1978 — The Missoulian — “Law Students Speak to Altrusan Club”
“Two University of Montana women law students spoke to the Altrusa Club at its regular March dinner meeting in the Spaghetti Station.
Representatives of the Law Women’s Caucus, the speakers discussed the Equal Rights Amendment from the legal standpoint.
Mary Van Buskirk outlined the history of women’s rights from tribal times to the passage of the ERA in Montana. She said that the United States copied its women’s property laws from England where Blackstone’s theory held that a married couple had only one legal identity and that was the husband’s.
Jeanne Koester spoke on Montana ERA provisions, pointing out that Montana was one of 17 states with an Individual Dignities Provision providing for equal rights for both sexes and that the Montana bill is considered to be a model by other states attempting to provide for women’s rights.
The speakers also discussed the reason for a federal ERA constitutional amendment, even with individual state bills and civil rights provisions.
A question-and-answer period followed the discussion.”