Letter from the chair

Long before today's role models of Chief Justice MaryAnn McMorrow, Justice Rita Garman, Judge Carol Bellows, and Esther Rothstein came along, there were the female founders of the legal profession like Myra Bradwell who broke barriers and fought for the right of women to practice law. Thankfully, by the time I entered the legal profession in 1994, so many women had overcome so many obstacles and paved the way for women like me to have the opportunity to succeed, build on their accomplishments, and remedy the injustices that remain.

Myra Bradwell was Illinois' first female lawyer. She worked her entire life for the chance to practice law but was denied admission to the Illinois bar because she was a woman. Consequently, Ms. Bradwell channeled her energies into changing the law to give women the right to enter the Illinois bar. She also founded the Chicago Legal News, the precursor to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, and had an enormous impact on the legal profession as a publisher, lobbyist, and activist.

Without question, Myra Bradwell was a visionary advocate and pioneer for women's legal independence. However, based on the number of extraordinary women I have met throughout the State of Illinois, I do not believe Ms. Bradwell was unique in her determination, perseverance, or legal thinking. It is something that so many of us bring to the legal profession in striving to be the best we can be, knowing that our work product is a reflection on the women who follow us.

Not too long ago the law was considered a man's profession. Thanks to our foremothers, who made substantial strides, today women enjoy a seat at the table where our voices are heard and impact greatly the law and politics. In celebration of Women's History Month, we dedicate this issue of the Catalyst to the extraordinary women who faced and fought against gender inequality and helped change the prejudices and attitudes against women in the legal profession. We must remember their sacrifices and tireless efforts and continue their work to eliminate all forms of discrimination by creating new paths of opportunity and success for women.

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Celia G. Gamrath is a partner with the Chicago office of Schiller, DuCanto and Fleck. She concentrates in high-stakes matrimonial law cases and appeals.

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February 2004Volume 9Number 3PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)