CWEALF would like to take the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of Mary Hall, Connecticut’s first female attorney and advocate for women’s rights to practice law. In 1877, Hall, a mathematics professor from Marlborough, CT, set her sights on the virtually unprecedented career change from teacher to female lawyer. She tenaciously studied law for the next 5 years, serving first as an apprentice to her brother Ezra, an attorney and Connecticut Senator, and later to John Hooker, the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Errors.
In 1882, 38-year-old Hall’s application to the Connecticut Bar caused quite the controversy. After passing the Bar examination and receiving a glowing recommendation from Hooker, Hall was accepted by the Bar under one condition: the CT Supreme Court of Errors must rule on the legality of a woman practicing law.
The Hartford Daily Courant supported Hall’s application, stating “It is hoped that the members of the Hartford County bar will not see fit to put themselves on the illiberal side on the pending application of an accomplished lady for admission to the bar. When women are allowed as physicians and teachers without question, it would be taking a long step backward to refuse their admission to the bar. It would be regarded as an admission of fear on the part of the men.”
The Court ruled in favor of women’s equal rights right to practice law in CT, making the In re Hall decision the first judicial decision in the United States that permitted women to practice law. Many thanks to Mary Hall for paving the way for today’s women to enter this fascinating and lucrative career!
Photo from Richmond Memorial Library, 1/24/13 Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MaryHall.jpg
Written by Cassandra Martin. Currently a CWEALF intern, Cassandra is majoring in English and Communication at Boston College and has aspirations of becoming an attorney.