Spring is in the air! I know this winter has been quite rough, but spring is approaching. The Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law co-sponsored an event with the ISBA Standing Committee on Women and the Law and Northern Illinois University College of Law. The event was held on March 21, 2014, and offered a glimpse into the life of Myra Colby Bradwell. Starting in 1869, Bradwell’s efforts to be admitted to the Illinois bar, including an appeal to the United States Supreme Court in 1873, had been rebuffed based on her gender. On its own motion, in 1890, the Illinois Supreme Court admitted Bradwell to the bar, based on her original application.
Other legal trailblazers in Illinois include Alta May Hulett, Lloyd G. Wheeler, and Ida Platt. In 1873, Hulett became the first woman admitted to practice law in Illinois, after passing the bar examination two times. Three years earlier, Hulett had been denied admission to the bar based on her gender. She successfully lobbied the legislature to enact legislation prohibiting the use of sex as a bar to any profession. Once admitted to the bar, Hulett, then 19 years old, opened a law practice in Chicago after her admission to practice law. However, in 1877, Hulett died of heart disease.
Lloyd G. Wheeler was the first African-American to be admitted to practice law in Illinois. Wheeler was admitted to practice in 1869. Wheeler moved from Illinois, and practiced law in Arkansas, where he was admitted to the bar in 1871. In 1894, Ida Platt became the first African-American woman admitted to the bar in Illinois. In 1906, Platt started her own solo law practice.
I started my solo law practice in 2010, and I raised many eyebrows with my decision. Imagine being a woman in 1873, and starting your own law firm. I wonder what challenges these inspiring women faced.
Almost four years after starting my law practice, I am still enjoying my legal career. I have had the opportunity to assist many individuals and businesses with legal issues. Many legal trailblazers have practiced in Illinois, and I am happy to be an Illinois lawyer. ■