According to the Bylaws, the CWBA Historian researches and maintains the history of the CWBA as an organization, and maintains individual histories of members in their professional capacities, including collecting and clipping newspaper and magazine articles about members. The Historian also collects oral and written histories of Colorado's women lawyers.
In furtherance of the Bylaws, the purpose of the History Corner is to showcase and commemorate the historic achievements and milestones of the CWBA and its members. Commemorating the contributions of women in the law increases the visibility of successful women lawyers and creates visible positive role models for current and future generations. Only by understanding how far we have come, can we understand how far we still need to go to help guide the future work of the CWBA.
Let’s continue to make history together to help advance women as leaders in the law!
History of Women Lawyers
In 1869, Arabella "Belle" Babb Mansfield was admitted to the Iowa Bar after passing the bar exam with high marks and successfully challenging Iowa's restriction that only males over the age of 21 were eligible for bar admission, making her the first woman to be admitted to a state bar. In 2019 we celebrated 150 years of women lawyers in the United States!
Since the establishment of the Equity Club at the University of Michigan in 1886, women lawyers and law students have formed associations of their own: sometimes because they were excluded from the formal or informal mentoring networks of men, sometimes for a special purpose, such as getting a woman on the bench, or sometimes just to share common concerns in a supportive setting. Specific women’s bar associations have come and gone. Some of the oldest in continuous existence are the National Association of Women Lawyers (1899), Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (1914), the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia (1917), Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (1919), Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (1919) and Queen’s Bench of San Francisco (1921). During the “Second Feminist Wave” of the 1970s, an influx of women into the profession brought renewed energy to women’s bar associations, and many new groups were created. It was in response to this interest that the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations came into being at an American Bar Association meeting in 1981.
For more on the history of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations, click here.