The Catalyst Behind a New Generation of Women Lawyers


Publish Date:
August 5, 2011
Publication Title:
San Francisco Daily Journal
Op-Ed or Opinion Piece
  • Barbara A. Babcock, The Catalyst Behind a New Generation of Women Lawyers (book excerpt from Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz), San Francisco Daily Journal, August 6, 2011, p. 6.


Clara Foltz was one of the first women lawyers in the United States, and for a time
one of the most famous. From the day of her admission to the Bar in 1878, she was
often in the news – arguing to all-male juries, stumping in political campaigns, working
for woman suffrage, penal reform and other causes. She had a large part in the
adoption of the first guaranties of equal access to employment and education in U.S.
constitutional history, pioneered the public defender movement and practiced law
continuously for fifty years.

In everything she did, Foltz enjoyed remarkable celebrity, due in part to the human
interest of her personal situation. She was a single mother of five children and became
a lawyer in order to support them as well as to find personal fulfillment and advance
women’s rights.