Belva Lockwood - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Belva Lockwood

Born a farmer’s daughter in New York, Belva Lockwood (1830-1917) rose to prominence as the first female lawyer to argue in front of the Supreme Court. When she was widowed at twenty-two and became a single mother, she put herself through college and earned a bachelor’s degree. She opened a co-ed private school—a rare institution in the 1880s—in Washington, D.C., before she turned her focus to the law. Lockwood lobbied for and helped pass an equal pay act for women in federal government. After that, at the age of forty-one, she decided to go to law school; she studied privately until she was accepted to National University Law School. After finishing her coursework, when she was denied a diploma because of her gender, she appealed directly to President Ulysses S. Grant, who helped her secure her degree. Lockwood became the second woman in D.C. to pass the bar; six years she later helped pass legislation that allowed female lawyers to appear before the Supreme Court. She became the first woman to be admitted to the Supreme Court bar and argued many cases for women and minority rights; a victory in one case awarded the Cherokee nation five million dollars. Four years after her entry into the Supreme Court bar, she raised the stakes even more by running as the first female presidential candidate with a full-fledged campaign. She had a glimmer of hope that her bid for presidency would help secure women’s suffrage. Although she garnered just over four thousand votes, she had this to say: “I have not raised the dead, but I have awakened the living … the general effect of attempting things beyond us, even though we fail, is to enlarge and liberalize the mind.”

Passed the Bar, and then raised it