Celebrating Women’s History Month: Myra Bradwell

In 1869, Myra Bradwell, who had passed the Illinois bar exam, was denied admission to the bar, on the grounds that a married woman couldn’t enter into contracts because of the common law doctrine of coverture and also because of her gender.  In the Illinois Supreme Court’s view, women weren’t entitled to practice law. Voting 8-1, the United States Supreme Court, 83 U.S. 130, affirmed that decision in 1872.  Undeterred, Bradwell continued advocating for women’s rights and continued to publish the Chicago Legal News, which she had founded in 1868 and which had become the most widely circulated legal newspaper of the time.

In 1890, the Illinois Supreme Court reconsidered Bradwell’s 1869 application and granted it nunc pro tunc, retroactively making her the first woman lawyer in Illinois.