The history of Wisconsin first female lawyers is represented well this Women’s History Month.
This weekend, the Bartell Theatre in Madison is featuring a play about Lavinia Goodell, the first female lawyer in Wisconsin. I posted about that a few weeks ago.
Today, I call your attention to an article about another of Wisconsin’s female legal pioneers, Kate Kane. Kane was a fierce advocate for the rights of women and the poor and wasn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers to be heard. Like Goodell, she faced severe discrimination in her legal practice.
In fact, she became so frustrated with her treatment in the courtroom that in 1883 she threw a glass of water right in the face of a Milwaukee judge. “Judge Mallory has been trying to drive me out of this court; he has continually insulted and misused me, but I bore it. Today, I wanted to insult Judge Mallory just where he had insulted me – in open court.”
And insult him she did. The judge was furious and Kane was hauled off to jail for contempt of court. “I shall stay here for ten years before I pay that fine,” Kane declared defiantly. The story made national news and Kane was driven out of practice and forced to relocate to Chicago.
The article is entitled “Citizen Kane: The Everyday Ordeals and Self-Fashioned Citizenship of Wisconsin’s ‘Lady Lawyer'” and is available in the February 2015 issue of the Law and History Review.