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Adams, Annette Abbott (12 March 1877–26 October 1956), lawyer and judge, was born in Prattville, California, the daughter of Hiram Brown Abbott, a storekeeper and justice of the peace, and Annette Frances Stubbs, a teacher. Adams earned a teaching credential from Chico State Normal School in 1897 and became schoolmistress of a country school until she entered the University of California-Berkeley in 1901. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1904, she taught high school in a rural county, serving as principal from 1907 to 1910. Encouraged by county trial judge John E. Raker, Adams entered Boalt Hall and supported herself while earning a J.D. The dean recommended her, the only woman in the class of 1912, to Western Pacific Railway for their house counsel. The company rejected her on the basis of gender, and she opened a private practice in Plumas County. She hired an instructor to learn how to change her voice from soprano to baritone to suit her masculine legal role. In 1906 she married Martin H. Adams but left him after one month. By 1914 she let others assume that she was a widow, although she and Adams never divorced. For thirty years she shared her home with her brother....

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Robert L. Gale and Thaddeus Russell

Alpern, Anne X. (1903–02 February 1981), attorney and judge, was born in Russia, the daughter of Joseph Alpern and Mary Leaser. (Alpern would never explain what the X in her name stood for, and it was rumored that early in her life she added it simply for fun.) The family immigrated to western Pennsylvania when she was an infant. They settled in Scenery Hill, near Washington, Pennsylvania, where her father owned a general store. Alpern attended Nicholas Elementary School and Scenery Hill High School in the town of Washington. After the family moved to Pittsburgh, she enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, from which she graduated in 1923 with a B.A. in education. Urged by her father to study law as a result of his admiration for ...

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Barron, Jennie Loitman (12 October 1891–28 March 1969), suffragist, lawyer, and judge, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Morris Loitman, a needle trades worker and later an insurance agent, and Fannie Castelman, a needle trades worker. From her Russian immigrant parents, Jennie Loitman learned the value of education. She graduated from grammar school at age twelve and from Boston’s Girls High School at age fifteen. While in high school she worked as an after school “hand” in a shoe factory. She taught Americanization classes in the evening and sold copies of William Shakespeare’s works door to door to pay her way through Boston University, where she received three degrees, an A.B. in 1911, an LL.B. in 1913, and an LL.M. in 1914....

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Bartelme, Mary Margaret (24 July 1866–25 July 1954), lawyer and judge, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Balthazar Bartelme, a building contractor, and Jeanette Hoff. She attended local schools, graduating from high school in 1882. She then attended Cook County Normal School, graduating to teach in the Chicago school system for five years. Originally she had planned a career in medicine, but a woman doctor advised against it and told her to meet with attorney ...

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Terri Ann M. K. Motosue

Buck, Carrick Hume (05 July 1900–18 October 1959), lawyer, was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, the daughter of Arthur Perry Buck, a sheep and cattle rancher, and Henrietta Hume Pettijohn, a lawyer. Buck decided on a legal career after watching defense lawyer Earl Rogers during a trial. Buck’s mother may have also influenced her decision to pursue law. Henrietta Hume Buck is distinguished as the first woman admitted to the New Mexico bar. In 1920 Carrick Buck completed her legal education at the University of Southern California, the same institution from which she had received her undergraduate degree. At age twenty-one Buck began her career as the youngest woman admitted to the California bar, one year after women received the right to vote....

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Dembitz, Nanette (22 November 1912–04 April 1989), lawyer and judge, was born in Washington, D.C., to Abraham Lincoln Dembitz, a lawyer, and Sarah Westheimer, a teacher. After graduating from the University of Michigan cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1932, Dembitz went to work as a social worker in Baltimore. She found this unsatisfying and decided to follow the footsteps of her father, her grandfather, ...

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Grossman, Mary Belle (10 June 1879–27 January 1977), suffragist, attorney, and judge, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Louis Grossman, the proprietor of a meat and hardware business, and Fannie Engle. Grossman attended Cleveland public schools and graduated from the old Central High School and from the Euclid Avenue Business College. She worked in the law office of a cousin, Louis J. Grossman, from 1896 to 1912. She decided that a career as a lawyer was preferable to that of a stenographer and bookkeeper and enrolled in 1909 in the evening program of Cleveland Law School (now a part of Cleveland State University), the first law school in Ohio to accept women. She was awarded her LL.B. in 1912 and passed the Ohio bar examination that same year. After practicing law in her cousin’s office for two years, she established her own law office and engaged in the solo practice of law through 1923. She never married....

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Kenyon, Dorothy (17 February 1888–11 February 1972), attorney, political activist, and judge, was born in New York City, the daughter of William Houston Kenyon, an attorney, and Maria Wellington Stanwood. In 1904 Kenyon graduated from Horace Mann High School in New York City. She then attended Smith College, graduating in 1908 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics and history....

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Lewis, Rhoda Valentine (31 August 1906–12 September 1991), lawyer and judge, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Charles Tobias Lewis, an engineer, and Josephine Valentine Spitzer. During her childhood, Lewis lived in Chicago and Honolulu, Hawaii. She graduated from Stanford University in 1927 and from Stanford Law School in 1929, proving her command of the law early by graduating first in a seventy-member class and completing her studies in two years instead of the usual three. Despite being the only woman in her class, Lewis had a congenial law school experience, which did not prepare her for the gender obstacles that she would encounter after graduation....

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Edith Sampson Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1949. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105576).

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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 ...