The Gendered Lives of Legal Aid: Lay Lawyers, Social Workers, and the Bar, 1863-1960
Posted: 28 Feb 2011
Date Written: February 28, 2011
The Gendered Life of Legal Aid, 1863-1960 (manuscript in process) will be the first monograph on the history of civil legal aid in the United States. By closely examining the history of legal aid in New York, Chicago, and Boston, it presents a number of arguments with wide-ranging implications and it is animated by a host of conflicts. These include the relationship between legal aid and citizenship, the changing status of domestic relations law, the interactions between lawyers and social workers and their different understandings of the role and nature of law, what services legal aid should provide, and even how the history of legal aid should be told. More specifically the work questions what it historically meant to “practice law” or “to be a lawyer” and argues that women practiced law before they were admitted to law school in large numbers or could be admitted to state bars. Thus it puts in historical context and collapses the categorical dichotomy of lawyer versus non-lawyer and argues that our understanding of women practicing law in the nineteenth century needs to account for women lay lawyers. It also demonstrates that the practice of law from the nineteenth century through the first decades of the twentieth century was more democratic, heterogeneous, and less elite than we currently appreciate.
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