Today’s On This Day in Wisconsin History features the passage of a bill in the Wisconsin Legislature prohibiting denial of admission to the bar on the basis of gender.
Here’s more from the State Historical Society:
R. Lavinia Goodell was the first woman admitted to the Wisconsin State Bar in 1897. Goodell had first applied in 1875, but was denied because it was believed that women were not suited to practice law. According to Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan, “Nature has tempered woman as little for the juridicial conflicts of the court room, as for the physical conflicts of the battle field.”
Goodell then worked with the legislature to pass and defend enabling legislation. After the legislature passed it, she reapplied for admission to practice before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and her petition was granted on June 18, 1879, with Judge Ryan dissenting.
If you’re interested in learning more about Goodell, see her biography entitled, Strong-minded woman : the story of Lavinia Goodell, Wisconsin’s first female lawyer. Note that it is written for young readers.