Tuesday, March 14 — This month in 1879 marked a milestone in women’s history and the opportunities available to them. President Rutherford Hayes earlier signed a congressional act “to relieve certain legal disabilities of women.” The act’s leading champion, 49-year-old Belva A. Lockwood, in March became the first woman to be admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court, which she did in 1880. Lockwood followed up in 1884 by becoming the first woman to mount a serious candidacy for the presidency. Lockwood was one of about 75 female attorneys in 1880. By 1890, there were only 208 in a national total of 89,600 lawyers. Today, there are more than 1.1 million lawyers, judges, judicial law clerks and other judicial workers, with more 37 percent of them women.
Profile America is in its 20th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.