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Official Magazine of the Denver Bar Association

Women As Lawyers and Women’s Treatment in the Law ~ By Kathleen Schoen

Women have come a long way, even if we still have a long way to go. We sometimes forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Below is a short quiz as a reminder of some of those losses and victories.

AS LAWYERS:

  • Who lost her 14th Amendment argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1873, arguing that she should be granted admission to the Illinois state bar?
    Myra Bradwell, Bradwell v. Illinois, 83 U.S. (16 Wall.) 130 (1873).
  • After graduating third in the 1952 Stanford Law School class, which Supreme Court Justice was denied an interview by 40 law firms because she was a woman?
    Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
  • What Colorado lawyer was told by the U.S. House Armed Services Committee chair that she and her newly elected black colleague would need to share one chair because “women and blacks were worth only half of one regular Member” and thus deserved only half a seat?
    Patricia Schroeder in 1973.
  • What U.S. Supreme Court Justice headed ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project that promoted gender equality in the law?
    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
  • Who was the first woman to be Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court?
    Mary Mullarkey, who was appointed in 1987 by Governor Roy Romer and elected Chief Justice by the other Justices in 1998. She was the longest-serving Chief Justice in state history when she retired in 2010.
  • Who was the first woman to be governor of Colorado?
    This chapter in history has yet to happen.
  • What was the percentage of women equity partners in law firms in 2015?
    18 percent. In 2006, this statistic was 16 percent. (See the National Association of Women Lawyers’ Ninth Annual Survey, 2015.)

AS WOMEN IN THE LAW:

  • What law passed in 2009 and was the first bill signed by President Obama allowing employees to sue an employer for employment pay discrimination that occurred over a period of years?
    Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law directly addressed Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Ledbetter’s claim was time-barred by Title VII’s statute of limitations.
  • When did the U.S. Supreme Court decide that women could not be systemically excluded from juries?
    1975. Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975). The American concept of a jury trial contemplates a jury drawn from a fair cross section of the community, and systematic exclusion of women (53 percent of the population) violated that concept.
  • What laws prohibited women from owning property once they were married, and when was the last related law overturned?
    Law of coverture. Although many states began adopting the Married Women’s Property Acts in the nineteenth century, Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U.S. 455 (1981), was a U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court deemed a Louisiana Head and Master law giving sole control of marital property to the husband unconstitutional.
  • What document generated by an 1848 event was the beginning of the first women’s movement in the United States?
    Seneca Falls, New York. “The Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions pledging reforms in property laws, child custody, women’s access to higher education, and the right to vote.”
  • When was the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution first proposed?
    1923.
  • Name the women who have run for president of the United States.
    Victoria Woodhall (1872), Senator Margaret Chase Smith (1964), Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm (1972), Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder (1988) and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (2008, 2016).
  • When did women in Colorado receive the right to vote?
    Women received the right to vote in Colorado in 1893, pursuant to a constitutional amendment. This was the first state referendum granting women the right to vote. In 1894, three Colorado women — Clara Cressingham, Carrie Clyde Holly and Frances Klock — were elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, becoming the first women to be elected to any legislature in U.S. history.

Kath

Kathleen Schoen is Director of Local Bar Relations and Access to Justice at the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations. She can be reached at kschoen@cobar.org.

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