Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Mieography

Meet Belva, this weeks choice.

Born Belva Ann Bennett in New York, she was the daughter of a farmer, and his wife. She graduated when she was 14 years old, and began to teach at the local elementary school. She was married at 18, but, tragically, her young husband died of tuberculosis 5 years later. They had one daughter. She was left, at 23, with nothing. She managed to get herself into a college prep school, and then managed to get a degree. She graduated with honors, and got a job, immediately as a headmistress, and teacher of school. She made half of what her male counterparts made. She had become interested in law while in college, but the school had no law department. So as she worked, she took private classes from a local law professor.
Eventually, she got a job in Oswego, NY, and met Susan B. Anthony. She agreed with many of Susan's ideas, especially related to educating young women. They were concerned that young girls were being taught courses that focused in on a 'domestic' role. They wanted to expand that. Belva made changes at her school, which included things like public speaking, and botany.
Despite the good changes she was making at her schools, Belva still wanted to study law. She took her daughter, Lura, and they moved to Washington DC in Feb. of 1866. She opened a coeducational private school, and began to pursue a legal career. She also remarried, to a man much older than her. Her husband was a practicing dentist, Baptist minister, and Civil War veteran. They had a daughter, who died at a very young age. The Rev. Lockwood supported his wife's desire to study law, and had a very progressive opinion about women's roles in society.
Belva applied to Colombian Law School, but they refused to admit her, as she would be a distraction to the male students. She was, however, finally admitted to the National University Law School (Now George Washington University Law School). She competed school, but they refused to grant her a diploma. Without a diploma, she could not gain admittance to the bar.
She wrote a letter to the President of the United States (Grant), and within a week, she had her diploma. She was 43 years old at this time. She was then admitted to the bar, with the caveat from several judges that they had no confidence in her. At one point, she tried to gain admission to the bar in Maryland, and the judge there told her that God Himself had determined that women were not equal to men, and never would be. When she attempted to defend herself, he had her tossed from the courtroom.
Belva began trying to build her practice, but her status as a married woman was as one who was strictly subordinate to her husband. She had no rights. And the judges used his, to keep her out of courtrooms. She was denied access to all of them, including the Supreme Court. Despite this, she had some cases, and she won them. She became known as an advocate for women's issues. She eventually drafted an anti-discrimination bill so that women would have the same access to the bar as their male colleagues, and spent a few years lobbying Congress to pass it. They did, eventually, pass it, and she was the first woman sworn into the US Supreme Court bar, in March of 1879. In 1880, she became the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court.
She then ran for President of the United States. Twice. She receive around 4,000 votes. She had to petition Congress to get her votes counted.
She also began to write essays about women's suffrage, and legal equality, and co-edited a journal called The Peacemaker, which promoted World Peace.
She died in 1917, and is buried in the Congressional Cemetary, in Washington, DC.


sybil law said...

Belva is awesome!

Daryl said...

Belva is now my new heroine


holly said...

she totally ROCKS!!!! my goodness - i hope you're compiling these into something... this is going to make a simply awesome volume of women vignettes...

Jo Beaufoix said...

Wow, she was amazing.