Arabella Mansfield (1846–1911) First female lawyer in the United States.
Arabella Mansfield (1846–1911) First female lawyer in the United States.

On International Women’s Day, let’s take a moment to remember the female lawyers who made U.S. history as firsts in their field.

We’ve limited the list to those women who are no longer with us, with one notable exception.



Margaret Brent

Margaret Brent

First woman lawyer to emigrate to America and appear in the court of the common law.


Esther Morris

Esther Morris

First woman in the United States appointed to a judicial position.


Belva Lockwood

Belva Lockwood

First woman allowed to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.


Lemma Barkeloo

Grave marker for Lemma Barkeloo.

First American woman to attend law school (Washington University) and try a case in an American court.


Arabella Mansfield

Arabella Mansfield

First female lawyer in the United States.


Ada Kepley

Ada Kepley

First American woman to graduate from law school (now Northwestern University School of Law).


Charlotte Ray

Charlotte Ray

(1850 –1911)
First black female lawyer in the United States.


Genevieve Cline

Genevieve Cline

First woman appointed to a federal court (U.S. Customs Court).


Florence Allen

Florence E. Allen

(1884 –1966)
First woman to serve as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge.


Harriet Spiller Daggett


First female full-time member of a law faculty in the United States.


Constance Baker Motley


First black woman to serve as a federal judge.


Grace Hays Riley


First dean of an American Bar Association-accredited law school, (American University Washington College of Law)


Barbara Charline Jordan

Barbara Jordan, a member of the United States House of Representatives

Civil rights activist. First Southern black woman elected to U.S. Senate.


Sandra Day O’Connor


(1930-  )
First female U.S. Supreme Court justice.


Janet Reno


First female U.S. Attorney General.