Legal History

“Am glad you like the photo.” Lavinia Goodell, January 9, 1871 Lavinia Goodell mentioned having her photograph taken on several occasions. One of her sittings occurred the week before Christmas in 1870. At the time, Lavinia was living with her aunt and uncle in Brooklyn and working at Harper’s Bazar in lower Manhattan. She wrote to her parents on December 18 that she was enclosing $3.00 for them to frame a photograph which she was going to send them for their Christmas present. She said, “Don’t know how good it will be.” Two days later she wrote her parents again,…
Paving the Way: the First American Women Law Professors, the long-awaited book by Herma Hill Kay, former Dean of UC Berkeley School of Law who passed away in 2017, tells the stories of the first fourteen female law professors at ABA- and AALS-accredited law schools in the United States. From Amazon: Paving the Way is filled with details, quiet and loud, of each of their lives and careers from their own perspectives. Kay wraps each story in rich historical context, lest we forget the extraordinarily difficult times in which these women lived. Paving the Way is not just…
“I suppose you had to give your real name to the publishers.” Clarissa Goodell, April 21, 1866 There is an old adage that writers should write what they know. Lavinia Goodell took that advice to heart. She often drew on her personal experiences for her short stories, and she clearly based some of her characters on herself, her friends, and her family. Sometimes her keen powers of observation hit a bit too close to home. A case in point was her story, “A Psychological Experiment,” which appeared in the June 1866 issue of Harper’s Magazine.   The protagonist of “A…
It’s Women’s History month, so we decided to put together Lavinia Goodell’s resume and ask a few employers if they would hire someone like her. They all found her credentials impressive. One said she would definitely hire Lavinia as a lawyer, but her resume does not convey “team player.” Others wondered whether silk stocking law firms would be afraid to hire her. She could repel clients who don’t share her values. She might be better off as a sole practitioner tackling social justice issues. For Lavinia’s full resume, click here. Just think of it. The woman who opened the Wisconsin…
“Mary Booth is as good a friend as ever.” Lavinia Goodell, April 26, 1866  When Lavinia Goodell went to work for the newly minted Harper’s Bazar magazine in 1867 (read about her experiences here and here), she worked with and shared an office with Bazar’s editor, Mary Louise Booth, one of the best known andContinue reading → The post “Mary Booth is as good a friend as ever.” appeared first on Lavinia Goodell.…
“The part assigned to women by nature is inconsistent with the practice of law.” In re Dorsett, Minnesota Court of Common Pleas, October 1876 Martha Angle Dorsett was the first woman admitted to practice law in Minnesota. Ms. Dorsett was born in New York in 1851. After earning a bachelor of philosophy degree from theContinue reading → The post “The part assigned to women by nature is inconsistent with the practice of law.” appeared first on Lavinia Goodell.…
Lavinia Goodell, November 21, 1869 In 1869, in an effort to improve her German language skills, Lavinia Goodell moved from her aunt and uncle’s home in Brooklyn into an upper room of a home on East 23rd Street in Manhattan owned by a German doctor. For a time she had a roommate who was a medical student at the Woman’s Medical College and Infirmary, an institution recently opened by sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell. Lavinia found Nancie Monelle very companionable, although they had divergent interests. Lavinia wrote to her sister: My new chum is quite a character. She is short,…
That easily could have been the headline of the June 2, 1877, Janesville Gazette. Max St. Bar was an inmate at the Rock County Jail and one of many students in Lavinia’s jail school. She immediately noticed his intelligence and elocution. In her relentless effort to prove that prisoners often have good qualities and are worthy of mentoring, Lavinia persuaded the sheriff to release St. Bar for a bit so that he could recite poetry to her Mutual Improvement Club. Lavinia’s article about Max St. Bar Professor Jenk L. Jones, pastor of the Unitarian Church, and his wife launched the…
“Went to Milwaukee to try Dr. Hanson’s Turkish baths.” Lavinia Goodell, January 21, 1880 In mid-January of 1880, ten weeks before her death from ovarian cancer, Lavinia Goodell travelled to Milwaukee to seek treatment at a Turkish bath establishment. The Milwaukee Thermo Therapea was located at 415 Sycamore Street, a few blocks west of theContinue reading → The post “Went to Milwaukee to try Dr. Hanson’s Turkish baths.” appeared first on Lavinia Goodell.…
“Dear old Beecher! There’s nobody like him!” Lavinia Goodell, August 30, 1874 Henry Ward Beecher was one of the most famous men of the nineteenth century. Born in Connecticut in 1813, he was a Congregationalist preacher, a staunch abolitionist, and a supporter of women’s suffrage and temperance. In the early days of the Civil War,Continue reading → The post “Dear old Beecher! There’s nobody like him!” appeared first on Lavinia Goodell.…