Exhibit at UI School of Law Outlines Women’s Struggles in the Legal Profession
A group dedicated to documenting Illinois' legal history will tell the story of some of the first women to enter the profession.
A three-month exhibit on some of the state's first female attorneys opens Monday at the University of Illinois' College of Law.
The exhibit developed by the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission serves two purposes. It tells the stories of women who paved the way for many others in the courtroom. But it's also aimed at helping the public understand similar issues today. And Commission Executive Director William Wheeler hopes those touring the exhibit can add to it.
"We're trying to reach out to people and tell them what we know, but perhaps as important or more important is to find out what people in the community know, certainly the legal community," he said. "There are the family members of Supreme Court justices or judges who served for a long time. They have stores they could share with us. We'd like to hear those."
The stories will include that of Ada Kepley. In 1870, she became the first American woman to graduate from law school, earning her degree at Northwestern, which was then known as Union College of Law. Her favorite causes were women's suffrage and temperance, or the reduced consumption of alcohol. Kepley made her home in Effingham. Florence Kelley became Illinois' first female factory inspector in 1890, while Catherine McCulloch was the first woman to serve as justice of the peace.
The state's Supreme Court historic preservation commission, which was started in 2007, will work with other Illinois law schools over the next two years to host similar exhibits. Opening ceremonies for the women's legal history exhibit are Monday afternoon at 3 at the U of I College of Law. It will remain open through May 12th.
(Photo courtesy of William Wheeler, Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission)