In 1869 Ada H. Kepley became the first U.S. woman to graduate from law school, in Chicago; Arabella Mansfield, in Iowa, became the first U.S. woman admitted to the bar, or practice of law.
Another early woman lawyer was Myra Bradwell, who persuaded her husband to teach her law.
In 1869 she wrote a law, passed by the Illinois legislature, that gave a married woman the right to keep any money she earned, rather than having to turn it over to her husband.
In the same year Bradwell passed the Illinois qualifying exam for lawyers, but she was not allowed to practice. She took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court but lost.
The Court’s 1873 decision declared that a woman’s “natural and proper timidity and delicacy” made her “unfit” for such a profession.
By this time, however, the Illinois legislature had passed a new law, written by female lawyer Alta M. Hulett, opening the law and all other professions (except military ones) to women.
The first black woman lawyer was Charlotte E. Ray. She began practice in 1872 but had a hard time finding clients who would hire her, both as a woman and as an African American.