Daughter of Liberty Wedded to Law: Gender and Legal Education at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Law 1870-1900

31 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2006 Last revised: 15 Oct 2008

Date Written: 1 1, 2002


This article describes major changes in legal education between 1870 and 1900 and uses the University of Pennsylvania's experience with coeducation as the primary example. Generally speaking, the late nineteenth century was an era in which masculine terms defined law students and the legal profession itself. Part I of this article describes the historical roots of the University of Pennsylvania Law Department in an era in which legal education mostly took place through clerkships and private study with practicing lawyers. In the 1870s and before, women in particular found it difficult to gain access to such legal education because the unique nature of the clerk-mentor relationship. Part II of this article explores the professionalization of legal education in the 1870s and beyond. Office-based education lost its dominance in legal education, due to the demise of the judicial circuit, specialization of legal practice, changes in technology, and increased demand for education from previously underrepresented groups.

Although the decision in 1881 to admit a female law student was a landmark event in the history of the University of Pennsylvania, the Law Department remained a uniquely male sphere. Part III describes the school's masculine vision of legal education and the legal profession. Carrie Burnham Kilgore, the first female student, was permitted to attend law lectures, but she was excluded from most extracurricular activities. Part IV details the school's transition to the modern era. In the 1890s, more women began to enroll in the Law School. These women created opportunities for themselves, formed their own moot court club, and held the same kind of mock trials that their male counterparts did. In challenging the masculine nature of legal education, Kilgore and the women who followed her rightfully became shapers of law and defenders of liberty in their own right.

Keywords: legal education, women, law schools, legal profession, history

JEL Classification: K40, K10

Suggested Citation

Crawford, Bridget J., Daughter of Liberty Wedded to Law: Gender and Legal Education at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Law 1870-1900 (1 1, 2002). Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, Vol. 6, No. 131, 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=895335

Bridget J. Crawford (Contact Author)

Pace University School of Law ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

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