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Allen, Florence Ellinwood (23 March 1884–12 September 1966), federal judge, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the daughter of Clarence Emir Allen, a lawyer, congressman, and mine manager, and Corinne Marie Tuckerman, a women’s club leader. In 1904 she earned a bachelor’s degree Phi Beta Kappa from the women’s college of Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She then worked for two years in Berlin, Germany, as a music critic. Returning to Cleveland, she taught at a private girls’ school. Lacking the talent for a concert piano career and bored by teaching duties, she took a master’s degree in political science from Western Reserve in 1908. The public law courses reminded her of the exciting connection between law and social reform, exemplified by her father’s political career....

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Bentley, Elizabeth Terrill (01 January 1908–03 December 1963), Communist party activist and government witness, was born in New Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of Charles Prentiss Bentley, a newspaper editor and department store manager, and Mary Burrill, a schoolteacher. After growing up in small towns in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, Bentley enrolled in Vassar College and in 1930 received an undergraduate degree in English. While at Vassar, she became involved in a variety of Socialist causes but did not demonstrate any interest in more radical left-wing ideas. For two years following graduation, she taught languages at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, but left in 1932 for Columbia University, where she earned her M.A. in Italian in 1935. While working on her graduate degree, she accepted a fellowship that took her to the University of Florence for the 1933–1934 academic year....

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Boissevain, Inez Milholland (06 August 1886–25 November 1916), lawyer, feminist, and suffrage activist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of John Elmer Milholland, a reporter and editorial writer, and Jean Torrey. Her father supported many reforms, among them world peace, civil rights, and woman suffrage. It was probably through his influence that Inez acquired her sense of moral justice and her activist stance....

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Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel (08 February 1924–18 October 1995), civil rights pioneer, lawyer, and educator, was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, the daughter of Travis B. Sipuel, a minister and later bishop of the Church of Christ in God, one of the largest black Pentecostal churches in the United States, and Martha Bell Smith, the child of a former slave. Her parents moved to Chickasaw, Oklahoma, shortly after the Tulsa race riot of 1921....

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Foster, Judith Ellen Horton Avery (03 November 1840–11 August 1910), lawyer, temperance activist, and Republican party leader, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jotham Horton, a blacksmith and a Methodist minister, and Judith Delano. Both parents died when she was young, and Judith moved to Boston to live with her older married sister. She then lived with a relative in Lima, New York, where she attended the Genessee Wesleyan Seminary. After graduation she taught school until her first marriage to Addison Avery in 1860. They had two children, one of whom died in childhood. The marriage ended about 1866, and she moved to Chicago, supporting herself and her child by teaching music in a mission school. In Chicago she met Elijah Caleb Foster, a native of Canada and a recent graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. After their marriage in 1869, they moved to Clinton, Iowa. They had two children; one died at the age of five....

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Jordan, Barbara (21 February 1936–17 January 1996), lawyer, politician, and university professor, was born Barbara Charline Jordan in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Benjamin M. Jordan and Arlyne Patten Jordan. Her father, a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute, was a warehouse employee until 1949 when he became a minister at Houston's Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, in which his father's family had long been active. Arlyne Jordan also became a frequent speaker at the church. The Jordans were always poor, and for many years Barbara and her two older sisters shared a bed, but their lives improved somewhat after their father became a minister. Barbara attended local segregated public schools and received good grades with little effort. She gave scant thought to her future, beyond forming a vague desire to become a pharmacist, until her senior year at Phillis Wheatley High School, when a black female lawyer spoke at the school's career day assembly. Already a proficient orator who had won several competitions, she decided to put that skill to use as an attorney....

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Lockwood, Belva Ann Bennett McNall (24 October 1830–19 May 1917), teacher, lawyer, and social activist, was born on a farm in Royalton, Niagara County, New York, the second child of Hannah Green and Lewis Johnson Bennett. Lockwood began teaching in the rural one-room schools of Niagara County at age fifteen. She made her first public comments against gender discrimination after learning that male teachers were earning twice as much for similar work. In 1848 she married Uriah H. McNall, a local farmer and sawmill operator. McNall’s death in 1853 left his 22-year-old widow with the responsibility of raising their young daughter. Lockwood enrolled at Genesee College (now Syracuse University), receiving a bachelor of science degree in 1857. In September of that year she accepted a position as principal of the Lockport Union School, again experiencing wage discrimination because she was a woman. After listening to woman’s rights activist ...

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Minor, Virginia Louise (27 March 1824–14 August 1894), suffragist and reformer, was born in Goochland County or Caroline County, Virginia, the daughter of Warner Minor, a landowner, and Maria Timberlake. When she was two years old the family moved to Charlottesville, where her father took a supervisory position in the dormitories of the University of Virginia. She spent a short time in a local female academy but otherwise was educated at home. In 1843 Minor married an attorney and distant cousin, Francis Minor; they had one child. She went to live with him in Mississippi, and a year later the couple moved to St. Louis....

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Sampson, Edith Spurlock (13 October 1901–08 October 1979), lawyer and judge, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Louis Spurlock, the manager of a cleaning and dyeing business, and Elizabeth A. McGruder. She came from a poor black family. Her resourceful mother had managed, by weaving and selling hat frames and switches, to earn enough money to buy a home. Financial necessity forced her to interrupt her grade school education to go to work, but eventually she was able to return and to graduate from Peabody High School in Pittsburgh. After high school she was employed by Associated Charities, a group that made it possible for her to attend the New York School of Social Work. While there she received the highest grade in a criminology course, which prompted Professor ...

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Truth, Sojourner (1799–26 November 1883), black abolitionist and women's rights advocate, black abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, was born in Hurley, Ulster County, New York, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, who were slaves. Named Isabella by her parents, she took the name Sojourner Truth in 1843. As a child, Isabella belonged to a series of owners, the most memorable of whom were the John Dumont family of Esopus, Ulster County, to whom she belonged for approximately seventeen years and with whom she remained close until their migration to the West in 1849. About 1815 she married another of Dumont’s slaves, Thomas, who was much older than she; they had five children. Isabella left Thomas in Ulster County after their emancipation under New York state law in 1827, but she did not marry again....

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White, Sue Shelton (25 May 1887–06 May 1943), feminist, suffragist, and attorney, was born in Henderson, Tennessee, to James Shelton White and Mary Calista Swain, both educators. The family moved to the small town of Montezuma where James and Mary continued to teach and where James was active in the Methodist ministry. In 1879 the family moved a few miles north to the slightly larger but still rural town of Henderson, where the couple also taught and James became superintendent of schools. After James's death in 1893, Mary struggled to support the family. She sold pianos and books, gave piano and voice lessons, and wrote for the local newspaper while she supervised and tutored her own children. Mary made few gender distinctions in the chores and duties she assigned to her sons and daughters, and young Sue, named for her father's sister, spent much of her time following her older brothers around and caring for her younger brother. Sue White's lifelong sensitivity on racial issues can be attributed to her mother's activities during these years and the family's residence in what Sue described as a "twilight zone" between white Henderson and an African American community known as "Jaybird." Sue was fourteen years old when her mother died in 1901....