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Sisters In Law

Sisters In Law

Women Lawyers in Modern American History

Virginia G. Drachman

ISBN 9780674006942

Publication date: 10/30/2001

More than any other profession women entered in the nineteenth century, law was the most rigidly engendered. Access to courts, bar associations, and law schools was controlled by men, while the very act of gaining admission to practice law demanded that women reinterpret the male-constructed jurisprudence that excluded them. This history of women lawyers--from the 1860s to the 1930s--defines the contours of women's integration into the modern legal profession.

Nineteenth-century women built a women lawyers' movement through which they fought to gain entrance to law schools and bar associations, joined the campaign for women suffrage, and sought to balance marriage and career. By the twentieth century, most institutional barriers crumbled and younger women entered the law confident that equal opportunity had replaced sexual discrimination. Their optimism was misplaced as many women lawyers continued to encounter discrimination, faced limited opportunities for professional advancement, and struggled to balance gender and professional identity.

Based on rich and diverse archival sources, this book is the landmark study of the history of women lawyers in America.


  • Drachman brings a new and illuminating context to the often dry and literal examination of this area of case law (early cases where the courts resisted women's claims to practice law). In doing so, she adds greatly to the existing analyses by adding the personal dimension to the cases, revealing the lives of the women who brought the cases, the links with the campaigns for legislative changes and places the cases in the context of women's demands for equality in all aspects of public life, particularly the suffrage campaigns.

    —Clare McGlynn, Legal History


  • Virginia G. Drachman is Professor of History at Tufts University. She is the author of Women Lawyers and the Origins of Professional Identity in America and Hospital with a Heart.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press