In honor of Women’s History month, here is a short list – by no means all-inclusive – of some highlights in the history of women in the legal profession:
1869 – Arabella Mansfield became the first woman to practice law in the United States after passing the Iowa bar.1886 – Carrie Burnham Kilgore became the first woman admitted to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; after graduating from Penn Law in 1883 and fighting for her admittance for the next three years.
1920 – Florence Allen became the first woman to be elected to a court of general jurisdiction when elected to serve as a state court judge in Ohio. She went on to serve as the state’s first female appellate court judge through her election to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1922. She later became the first female federal appellate judge, when she was appointed to the 6th Circuit in 1933.
1927 – Sadie T.M. Alexander became the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and to be admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar.
1930 – Sarah M. Soffel became the first woman judge in Pennsylvania.
1959 – Juanita Kidd Stout is appointed to fill a vacancy on the Philadelphia Municipal Court, making her the first African American woman to sit on the bench in Philadelphia. She was elected to a ten year term just two months later, making her the first elected African-American female judge in the United States.
1961 – Justice Anne X. Alpern is elected as the first woman elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
1981 – Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is sworn in as the first female justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.
1988 – Doris Smith-Ribner, is the first African-American woman judge elected to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court.
1988 – now Justice Juanita Kidd Stout, became the first African American woman to serve on a state supreme court when Governor Robert P. Casey appointed her to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
2008 – Cheryl Allen, first African-American woman judge elected to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
2009 – Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the first Hispanic female judge to be sworn in as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Feel free to provide information on other female trailblazers in the comment section below!
“It’s okay to look over your shoulder, just don’t stare.” Wise words from our January speaker, Judge Annette Rizzo (ret.), who is careful to explain that, for her, “ret.” means retooled, not retired.
As we begin a new year and have an opportunity to embrace new ideas, habits and, yes, even those semi-dreaded resolutions, many in our audience found themselves struck by Judge Rizzo’s opening words.
One woman said that it reminded her of the time she spent worrying about past mistakes or even dissecting past decisions. She resolved to stop “staring over her shoulder” and to start reminding herself that, although mistakes were inevitable, they were rare and often repairable.
Another attendee believed that the phrase touched on her tendency to do things the way she had always done them, fearing that trying a new method would lead to failure. Yet another felt that Judge Rizzo’s words reflected her tendency to spend the morning in a flurry while at home worrying about work, only to arrive at work and spend much of her morning worrying about her home life.
How much time do we, as women in the profession, spend looking over our shoulders? How often do we talk ourselves out of exploring a world outside of our comfort zones because we are busy staring over our shoulders? And, more importantly, how can we resist the temptation to stare over our shoulders?
The answer will be different for everyone, but a starting point was delivered with Judge Rizzo’s closing words, “go the extra mile, the road isn’t crowded.” It’s impossible to move forward if you’re holding yourself back by obsessing over the past; nor can you look ahead if you are staring over your shoulder.
Judge Rizzo’s words struck different chords with different people, but her message to all of us is the same: look forward, there are better things ahead.
Growing up, I remember people talking about where they were when they learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated, or when Elvis had died. For my generation, the September 11 terrorist attacks is one of the moments in life most of us will never forget where we were, who we were with, or how the rest of that tragic day played out. As we approach the ten-year anniversary of the attacks, I have thought a lot about what I was doing and how I felt on September 11.
When I arrived at work that morning, one of the partners of the small firm I was working for told me the news as I stepped off the elevator. Everyone in the office was huddled around the firm’s one television to see the latest developments, watching in disbelief, and eager to hear more about the missing planes. The same planes that later slammed into the Pentagon and the field in Stonycreek, Pennsylvania. I was in shock, but strangely, I don’t remember crying. At least not at work. In fact, my day played out relatively normally, with depositions in the afternoon. Of course, I was glued to the television that night, when I do remember crying and feeling so much pain for the loss of life, and anger that something so horrifying could happen here. Little did I realize then that the world would never be the same again.
Where were you when you learned of the attacks on 9.11?
Post by: Stacy N. Lilly, Esq.
It’s back-to-school time, and the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Women in the Profession Public Service Task Force is hosting its Fourth Annual School Supply Fundraiser Happy Hour on Thursday, August 25 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Public House. Drink specials will be available.
The Task Force will be collecting school supplies to be donated to Ellwood Elementary, located in the East Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia. Needed supplies include school bags, rulers, calculators, composition books, folders, pens, pencils, highlighters, scissors, glue, paper, crayons and markers.
This happy hour is open to anyone interested in helping the students of Ellwood Elementary. Join the Task Force, make a difference for some students in need, and help make this the most successful School Supply Fundraiser yet!
For more information, please contact Michelle Wexler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Post by: Stacy N. Lilly, Esq.
We are happy to present the inaugural issue of the Women in the Profession Newsletter, featuring content by Kathleen Creamer, Jane Leslie Dalton, JoAnne Epps, Maria Feeley, Sayde Ladov, Judge Sandra Mazer Moss, and Kathleen Wilkinson. Read it here!
The PA Conference for Women will be Tuesday, Oct. 25 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. The Conference features women’s rights pioneer Gloria Steinem, “Ugly Betty” actress America Ferrera, President and CEO of CARE USA, Helene Gayle, former Olympic athlete and WNBA player Marion Jones, life coach and O, The Oprah Magazine and columnist Martha Beck.
This year’s theme, Live Fearlessly!, encourages women to conquer the challenges of their daily life and boldly transform into the woman they want to become. The Conference features motivational keynote speeches, engaging workshops and panel discussions that cover a vast range of topics specifically designed for women, including healthcare, leadership, managing change, finding work life balance and personal finance.
Register online at https://www.event-registration.biz/pawc/introduction.asp using this supporting organization promotional code: PACP24.
The price you pay is $125 and includes access to all keynotes and sessions, Career Pavilion, Health & Wellness Pavilion and Exhibit Hall.
To learn more about the eighth annual Pennsylvania Conference for Women, visit http://www.paconferenceforwomen.org.
The Women in the Profession Committee has been a supporter of the Pennsylvania Conference for Women since its inception in 2004. The Conference has grown over the years to attract more than 5,000 attendees annually. The Conference features dozens of renowned speakers who will share inspirational stories and lead seminars on the issues that matter to women, and offers incredible opportunities for networking, professional development, and personal growth. The Conference alternates between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia each year. The 2011 Conference will be held on October 25, 2011 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. For more information, visit: http://www.paconferenceforwomen.org/ I hope to see you there!