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 for additional information and online registration.•


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.