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IBA: WLD Invites IndyBar Members to Explore Women's Legal History

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iba-leach-fbox.gifBy Germaine Winnick Willett,Ice Miller LLP

Did you know that a number of Indiana women played important roles in the national fight for women’s suffrage? Women like Mary Frame Thomas, who gave a stirring address for women’s rights before Indiana’s legislature in 1859, the first woman to ever speak before the elected body. Or abolitionist Amanda Way, who stated her case for women’s right to vote to the state legislature in 1871 and who worked tirelessly to organize suffrage activists. Another crusader for women’s rights was journalist, lawyer, and temperance activist Helen Gougar, who sued the Tippecanoe County election board for refusing to permit her to vote. She appealed her case to the Indiana Supreme Court, where she became the first woman to argue before the state’s highest court. These and many other women worked tirelessly on both the local and national stage to persuade hearts and minds that women should not be denied the right to vote.

It took decades, but finally, in 1919, the U.S. Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, granting all women the right to vote, and sent the amendment to the states for ratification. Indiana ratified the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, the 26th state to do so.

Long before suffrage was won, women and men lobbied for and achieved important changes in Indiana’s divorce and property laws for the benefit of women. Admission to practice law proved a tougher battle. Though some counties decided to admit women to the practice of law (the first was Vigo County when it admitted Elizabeth Jane Eaglesfield in 1875), most other counties denied applications to practice made by women. Not until 1893 did Antoinette Dakin Leach convince the Indiana Supreme Court that women could not be deprived of the right to practice law based solely on their gender.

These courageous figures in Indiana history, once examined, serve as important role models for today’s lawyers. It is with this backdrop in mind that IndyBar’s Women and Law Division (WLD) is poised to present a half-day seminar titled “Women’s Legal History–Major Movements and Local Impact.” The seminar will take place on October 23, 2012, from 1:30 to 5:15 p.m. and will provide attendees 3.5 hours of general continuing legal education credit.

The first session will feature Eric Hamilton and Jennifer Kalvaitis, graduate students in history at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, who have been studying the suffrage movement in Indiana. The 2011 Antoinette Dakin Leach Award winner, the Honorable Margret Robb, will join them to discuss her own research into the legal battles over the right of Indiana women to practice law, and Justice Leonard Hackney’s historic decision, In re Leach.

In the second session, Professor Jennifer Drobac from the I.U. Robert H. McKinney School of Law and Nora Macey of Macey Swanson & Allman will describe the key legislative changes in the decades following the suffrage victory that were necessary to open the doors for women to advance in the professional realm. Additionally, Jill Chambers from the Indiana Women’s History Association and lawyer Jan Ellis will describe the local activism for gender equality in which they took part some twenty years ago.

Few doubt that female professionals continue to face unique challenges and encounter barriers that slow or stymie their professional advancement. In the final session, Ann DeLaney and Kathleen DeLaney of DeLaney & DeLaney will lead a discussion on why, in the twenty-first century, a gender gap still exists with respect to leadership in law. The discussion will include explanation of the phenomena of implicit bias and stereotype threat, as well as strategies that organizations and women themselves can employ to reduce or eliminate their impact on women’s professional performance and achievement.

WLD’s Women’s Legal History seminar will take place at the Columbia Club. All attendees are invited to a reception following the seminar. In a fitting tribute to the past and in celebration of the many victories won by our foremothers, WLD will host its annual Antoinette Dakin Leach Award dinner immediately following the reception (also at the Columbia Club). This year, WLD will present the ADL Award to Kathleen Lucas, a partner at Bose McKinney & Evans. Those interested in attending the seminar, the award dinner, or both, can go to www.indybar.org for additional information and online registration.•

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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