Let’s Celebrate National Women’s History Month!
National Women’s History Month is celebrated in many countries around the world, and recognizes women for their achievements—with no regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic, or political.
The United States first observed National Woman’s Day on February 28 when the Socialist Party of America designated this day in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. However, the first achievement can be traced back to much earlier. In 1848, incensed because women were prohibited from speaking at an anti-slavery convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott convened several hundred people at the United States’ first women’s rights convention in New York. They demanded civil, social, political, and religious rights for women in a Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions.
The International Women’s Day 2022 Campaign Theme
March 8, 2022 was officially International Women’s Day, and now this movement is celebrated around the world, thanks in part to several global United Nations women’s conferences, which has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic realms.
The International Women’s Day campaign for this year is themed #BreakTheBias. Organizers ask us to “Imagine a gender equal world.” That means:
- A world that’s free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
- A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
- A world where difference is valued and celebrated.
Together we can forge women’s equality and “Break the Bias.”
National Women’s History Month and Famous Women Attorneys
In addition to International Women’s Day 2022, March is National Women’s History Month. Every U.S. President has proclaimed March as Women’s History Month since 1995.
As the White House says, “Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to honor the generations of trailblazing women and girls who have built our Nation, shaped our progress, and strengthened our character as a people.”
Let’s take a look at some of the trailblazing women in the practice of law:
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Making headlines recently is Judge Jackson, who has been nominated by President Biden to be the first Black woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court. When Judge Jackson told her high school guidance counselor that she wanted to attend Harvard, the guidance counselor warned that she shouldn’t set her “sights so high.” But that didn’t deter her. Judge Jackson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, then attended Harvard Law School, where she graduated cum laude and was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Myra Bradwell. She founded the Chicago Legal News— a widely-circulated and popular legal newspaper in 1868. Ms. Bradwell was an early pioneer for women practicing law. Perhaps her most significant contribution came in 1873 when she tried a case in front of the United States Supreme Court—what many see as the first sexual discrimination case in American jurisprudence. In Bradwell v. Illinois, Ms. Bradwell asserted that she was qualified to practice law in her home state of Illinois because she was a U.S. citizen. The issue was whether the right to receive a license to practice law is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. The answer was no, as the Supreme Court held that states could statutorily deny women the right to practice law. Nonetheless, Ms. Bradwell was a great spokeswoman for women.
Lyda Burton Conley. In 1910, Ms. Conley became the first Native American female lawyer in the U.S. She taught herself the law to protect her tribe’s cemetery burial land located in Huron Park Indian Cemetery from being sold (in Kansas City, and now known as the Wyandot National Burying Ground). While she unfortunately lost her case, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to rehear it, she raised enough public support through her efforts that the House of Representatives Indian Affairs committee banned desecration of the cemetery two years later.
Genevieve Rose Cline. Looking back in history, Judge Cline was the first woman federal judge in America. She was nominated in 1928 by President Calvin Coolidge to the U.S. Customs Court, where she served for 25 years. Judge Cline was also an early advocate for consumer protection, women’s rights, and the suffrage movement.
Sandra Day O’Connor. From Arizona, she was the first female Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Justice O’Connor has certainly been a trailblazer for many female lawyers.*
Sonia Sotomayor. Another woman who’s now on the Supreme Court was the first Hispanic and Latina Supreme Court Justice—as well as only the third woman to be an associate justice— Sonia Sotomayor. After graduating from Yale Law School, she was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. She was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2009, and is a passionate advocate for equal rights, justice, and gender equality.
Loretta Lynch. President Obama nominated Ms. Lynch to become the first-ever African American woman attorney general. In her work, she led high-profile cases involving corruption and policing in the U.S., including an investigation of the Baltimore and Chicago Police Departments in 2015 following public unrest.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, she served from 1993 until her death in 2020. Justice Ginsberg is remembered for both her impact in the field of law and the barriers she shattered in the field as an advocate for women’s rights.
Janet Reno. In 1993, Ms. Reno became the first female U.S. Attorney General under President Clinton. In fact, serving all eight years, she was the longest-serving Attorney General in U.S. history.
Janet Napolitano. Last and certainly not least is one more Janet and one more history-making woman attorney. As some have said, she may be the most accomplished woman in law and politics that most people don’t know. Ms. Napolitano was the first woman attorney general for the state of Arizona before being elected Governor of the Grand canyon State from 2003 to 2009. She was then nominated by President Obama to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security. After leaving the federal government in 2013, she became the President of the University of California.
These women and others in the law have contributed in a number of significant ways to revolutionize the legal profession.
These trailblazers’ efforts in the face of adversity have resulted in new laws and more equitable policies that benefit women. Their contributions to the field of law definitely deserve celebration.
Here’s to all of the women attorneys and allied legal professionals who contribute to our firm’s success!
*And for more information about our firm’s storied history with Sandra Day O’Connor, please visit: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/about-us/history/