COEDUCATION AT UVA LAW
n 2020, women comprised the majority of the 1L class for the first time in the University of Virginia School of Law’s 200-year history. That year also marked the centennial of coeducation at UVA Law, one hundred years after the first three women enrolled in 1920. Fifty years later, in 1970, Elaine Jones became the Law School’s first Black female graduate. Even then, Jones was only one of eleven women in her incoming class.
Women as Legal Subjects
The Road to Coeducation
First to Enroll
The road to coeducation has not been easy, nor is the path to gender equality complete.
The Ladies’ Room
100 Years of Coeducation at UVA Law acknowledges the diversity of women’s experiences at UVA Law and the ongoing work to build a more inclusive Law School.
Virginia Law Women
Expanding the Faculty
Leaders and Lawyers
Preserving Our Stories
KIRSTEN JACKSON, UVA LAW CLASS OF 2018
LEGAL SUBJECTS Women were present in the UVA Law curriculum from the start.
ver the 19th century, law became a full-time profession taught in the academy rather than through apprenticeships. While men trained in UVA Law classrooms and comprised the roster of law graduates, women were fundamental to the curriculum. The Law School’s heavy emphasis on property and contracts necessitated an ongoing discussion of women as legal actors.
ALBERT AND SHIRLEY SMALL SPECIAL COLLECTIONS LIBRARY
Albrert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
Law in the 19th Century
Student notebooks reveal that women were a part of class lectures and assignments at UVA Law long before white women were permitted to enroll in 1920. Law lectures and examinations addressed dower and coverture, divorce, enslaved women as property, inheritance, women’s and men’s debt liability, and other facets of women’s legal identity. In his lectures on coverture and inheritance, Law Professor John B. Minor (1845-1895) elevated the rights of husbands, fathers, and creditors over those of women. The wives and daughters of UVA Law’s first professors, as well as the enslaved people who labored in their households, were surrounded by legal education. Law classes took place in Pavilion III and later Pavilion X, the family residences of law professors. Professor Minor met with students in his Pavilion X office and invited them to dine with his family. Two of Minor’s daughters, Martha “Mattie” Sams (left) and Susan Colston Wilson (seated), married law students. In line with his teaching, Minor stipulated in his will that his creditors be paid first, which left little for the women in his family. One of his daughters, Anne “Nannie” Jacquelin Minor (right), became a nurse and social worker in Richmond. The other women in the Minor family took care of one another by leasing property and penny-pinching.
One of ten questions included in the Law School’s final exam of 1829. According to University policy, these written tests were taken in July in the Rotunda and graded by a faculty committee. Students with satisfactory exam scores graduated; those with the highest marks had their names published in newspapers across the state.
John Henshaw’s 1847 class notes from Professor John B. Minor’s lecture on “Husband and Wife” outline laws governing marriage. Women’s claims to property were common themes in class, particularly in lectures on William Blackstone’s Commentaries.
Passage of the 19th Amendment was the tipping point in the movement to coeducate UVA Law.
Library of Congress
he latter decades of the 19th century witnessed a revolution in legal education nationally, with the growing adoption of Harvard’s “case method” approach to teaching, mandatory bar exams, and more rigid entrance requirements for law school. The Virginia State Bar Association was founded in 1888. Shortly thereafter, the bar exam became a requirement for state licensure. UVA Law responded with a two-year coursework requirement in 1894 and a more robust curriculum. These new qualifications, which were designed to professionalize legal training in the U.S., put new barriers in place for women. Women were still prohibited from admission to the bar in many states and from enrollment in most law schools, including UVA Law. At the turn of the century, the growing
In 1893, the Commonwealth of Virginia denied Belva Lockwood, a women’s rights activist and licensed D.C. attorney, entry to the bar despite a state law that allowed attorneys licensed elsewhere to practice in Virginia. Lockwood appealed her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court upheld Virginia’s decision.
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
The Road to Coeducation
Mary-Cooke Branch Munford led the call to open UVA to women and was the third woman to serve on the University’s Board of Visitors. She held that position from 1926 to 1938.
Law Dean on the Admission of Women number of female high school graduates in Virginia bolstered calls for a women’s, or “co-ordinate,” liberal arts college at the University of Virginia. Richmond suffragette Mary-Cooke Branch Munford emerged as the leader of the co-ordinate college movement. She received support from UVA’s first president Edwin Alderman but faced opposition from the majority of the University’s alumni and from UVA Law professors Charles Graves and Raleigh Minor. Munford and her cohort proposed coordinate college bills to the Virginia legislature during every biennial session from 1910 to 1918. Although these bills passed in the State Senate in 1914, 1916, and 1918, they never passed in the House of Delegates. With William & Mary’s decision to coeducate in 1918, and the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, President Alderman convinced the Board of Visitors to admit white women to UVA’s graduate and professional schools, including the Law School.
Many American law schools began admitting women in the late 19th century, with Washington University in St. Louis as the first to accept a female law student in 1869. UVA Law did not coeducate until 1920, a decision that coincided with other top-tier law schools, such as Yale (1918) and Columbia (1923). The tipping point for UVA Law was the success of women’s suffrage. Law Dean William Minor Lile, an 1882 UVA Law graduate, credited women and their persistence with coeducating the Law School, though he disparaged the policy himself.
“ GEORGIA O’KEEFFE, UNTITLED (LAW BUILDING - UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA LAW BUILDING), 1912-1914 COURTESY GEORIA O’KEEFFE MUSEUM
Munford on the BOV
But it has been done—not because we of the Law School believed the law a fit profession for the mothers of the coming generations, but for the same reason that the gods gave the frogs a king—they clamored (I dare not say croaked) for it so vociferously. Voters as they now are (the women, not the frogs), their insistence and persistence—their crying aloud night and day without surcease—their strident threats of forcing their way in by the legislative door, and therefore on their own terms—convinced us that discretion was the better part of valor.” — William Minor Lile, 1921 7
LIFE AT UVA LAW
ELIZABETH TOMPKINS AND THE LAW CLASS OF 1923 8
Duke Unversity Archives
ose May Davis, Catherine Lipop, and Elizabeth Tompkins ’23 entered UVA Law in 1920 after meeting higher admission standards than those required of their male counterparts. Female applicants had to hold a B.A. or be 22 years old; male applicants had to complete only one year of college and be at least 18. In 1922 and during their second year, Tompkins and Davis were two of the first three women to pass the Virginia bar exam. Both earned perfect scores. Davis left UVA Law after passing the bar to begin private practice, but Tompkins remained to complete her degree. She became the first woman to graduate from the Law School in 1923.
hile the first women law students excelled in the classroom, the social component of legal studies remained closed to them. At legal fraternities— where Tompkins and her female peers had no seat—male students studied and built friendships. In an April 1921 letter to her father, Tompkins rued the barriers she still faced as a woman law student. “There has been, and there is, no one to argue with when I leave class at noon. I have no Law afterwards. I can only dig it by reading, and only understanding one half at that. The boys at practically every fraternity have a round table and discuss Law every night for an hour. Of that I know nothing.” Tompkins impressed Dean William Minor Lile, though he
doubted she would succeed as a lawyer. Tompkins wrote to Lile in 1924 about her frustrations with trying to find a job after graduation. Lile encouraged Tompkins to open her own law firm, but he believed she would be “handicapped on account of her sex.” In his private diary, Lile remarked: “It will not be long before she deserts the profession of law and takes up that of wife & mother—rolling a baby carriage instead of wrangling in court—a much more suitable & seemly occupation for a woman.” Defying his expectations, Tompkins did open a law office in Richmond with a focus on estate planning, chancery, and civil litigation. She worked there for 54 years, eventually earning the local moniker “dean” of the city’s women lawyers.
ROSE MAY DAVIS joined her brother’s private law practice after passing the Virginia bar exam as a 2L. She later earned her Ph.D. in chemistry at Duke, where she was the first woman to receive a doctorate degree. Davis went on to teach chemistry at Randolph-Macon College.
CATHERINE LIPOP, the Law School’s librarian, enrolled in 1920 as a non-degree student. She took classes until 1923 and served as law librarian until 1945. Dean Lile described Lipop as “efficient,” “intelligent,” and “indefatigable.”
It took them one semester to find out I was “ NOT AFTER A HUSBAND,
ELIZABETH TOMPKINS ’23 clerked for two years after graduation and then entered private practice in Richmond, Virginia, where she had a successful 54-year legal career.
and another semester to find out I could
DO THE WORK. ”
—Elizabeth Tompkins ’23
the thirties 1930s 10
MARION BOYD CROCKETT ’32 AND MEMBERS OF THE VIRGINIA LAW REVIEW, 1932
he matriculation of women at the Law School remained gradual, and limited to white students, from the 1920s to the 1950s. Women comprised only a few students in each graduating class. The admission requirement that all prospective women students earn a B.A. prior to entering law school, which was applied to men as well in 1922, resulted in a small pool of eligible female applicants. Women who did attend faced a male-dominated culture, which remained entrenched despite small but significant victories. In 1931, Marion Boyd Crockett ’32 became the first woman elected to the Virginia Law Review editorial board. In a diary entry following a dinner with Law Review members, Dean William Minor Lile said of Crockett’s election: “This year, for the first time in its history, the Board has a woman member (Miss Crockett)…. That she should have earned this honor in her second year is much to her credit.” Crockett graduated in 1932 and went on to work in New York City at the civil liberties firm Engelhard, Pollak, Pitcher & Stern, well known at the time for its work on behalf of the Scottsboro defendants.
MARY ELIZABETH SWAIN GILMER ’29, a William & Mary graduate who began her studies at UVA Law in 1926, found herself in what she called a “sea of males.” She considered male law students cordial, but she still asked for advice from the dean of women regarding how to navigate a male-dominated environment. On one occasion, her criminal law professor singled her out in class and made the shocking request that she “recite
the elements of rape.” When Gilmer gave the correct response, her male classmates stomped their feet in approval. Gilmer was eventually admitted to the Illinois State Bar.
ALICE BURKE ’26 ACCEPTS COMMAND OF THE WAVES BARRACKS AT BALBOA PARK IN SAN FRANCISCO.
FRANCES FARMER, C. 1944.
MARGARET CARTER HOYT ’37 had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer and began her studies at Virginia Law in 1934. A member of the Virginia Law Review and top student, Hoyt enjoyed her time at UVA and noted that, while a few of her male colleagues were “amused” by her presence, everyone got along. Her interactions with male faculty were mixed. One professor insisted on referring to her as a man because he “hated women attorneys.” After law school, Hoyt qualified to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and worked as an attorney for the Rural Electrification Association. MARIANNE BELL McCONNAUGHEY ’37 sought a law clerkship position after earning her degree. She recalled being welcomed by her peers but rejected on the job market. While she was offered many secretarial jobs, the male attorneys she encountered would not consider hiring a female lawyer. McConnaughey held several government positions during her career before becoming a staff attorney for and eventually a member of the Board of Immigration Appeals.
tudent enrollment at UVA Law dipped significantly during World War II, on par with national figures. Four women graduated from the Law School in 1945 out of a class of only 21 students. UVA Law staff saw the war years as an opportunity to prepare the school for postwar growth. Frances Farmer, the first woman to teach at UVA Law, began working at the Law School in 1942 as a senior library cataloguer. Farmer was a lawyer by training and had earned her LL.B. in 1935 as the only woman in her class at T.C. Williams School of Law. Farmer completed a law librarianship course at Columbia University and was appointed law librarian at the University of Richmond in 1938. When Farmer arrived at UVA Law in July 1942, she managed a major overhaul of the library’s classification and acquisition procedures. At the
POSTWAR LAWYERS time, the library had fewer than 40,000 books, all of them uncatalogued. Wartime demands complicated her cataloging plan. The War Production Board requisitioned the typewriters Farmer had rented for project typists. Then the War Department’s School of Military Government moved into the Law School, forcing Farmer and her staff to adapt hallways into cataloging space and book truck thoroughfares. Farmer still completed the project on time. In 1945, she was appointed Law Librarian in recognition of her supervisory accomplishment. Under her leadership, the UVA Law Library grew to 100,000 cataloged volumes in the early 1950s. Farmer taught legal bibliography and gained full faculty status at UVA Law in 1968, becoming the Law School’s first woman professor of law. She retired in August 1976 and was designated professor emerita by the UVA Board of Visitors.
At war’s end, male and female service members returned from duty and began to bolster the Law School’s numbers once again. Margaret Gordon Seiler ’51 entered the Law School after her service in the Women’s Army Corps and went on to join the Law Review editorial board and be the first woman inducted into UVA Law’s chapter of the Phi Delta Epsilon fraternity. Meanwhile, some alumnae lawyers served in postwar tribunals in Tokyo and Nuremburg. Alice BETTY BLAIR DENIT STEWART ’45 Burke ’26 achieved the rank WITH HER HUSBAND. of lieutenant commander in the Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Naval Reserve (WAVES) and later acted as defense counsel at the International Military Tribunal in Tokyo. Betty Blair Denit Stewart ’45, a former editor of the Virginia Law Review, clerked for the chief justice of the occupation court system in Nuremberg.
The Sixties WE’RE HERE BECAUSE WE WANT TO BE LAWYERS.
ELAINE JONES ENROLLS
ADMISSIONS AND THE DRAFT
Elaine Jones ’70 entered the Law School in 1967 and was UVA Law’s first Black female student. She was one of eleven women and one of two Black students in her entering class. In a 2006 interview, Jones recalled: “It was not a welcoming environment for women... and the whole idea of a Black woman was just so far off the charts.” For Jones, the Law School’s silence in the wake of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. further signified the covert discrimination toward Black students at UVA: “I came to school that day... no one said a word. Not a student, not a professor, no one said one word. Nothing. And at the end of the day I went to Jimmy [James Benton Jr. ’70]—who was the other Black person in my class—and I said ‘Jimmy, do they know? Do they know?’ Of course they knew. Of course they knew, but in many of their minds King was a rabble-rouser.”
The Law School’s admissions pattern began to shift in 1968. That year, the U.S. ended draft deferments for male graduate students. To compensate, UVA Law increased class sizes and began admitting more women. Whereas the first-year class in 1967 had 11 women students out of a class of 255 (4%), the entering class in 1968 had a record 24 female students out of 303 (8%). Nevertheless, there were few female students and people of color at the Law School. The next decade would see substantial student-led activism to increase the number of women and people of color in the student body and on the faculty. This work would build off the efforts of the trailblazers of the 1960s.
ven as the demographics of the Law School began to shift in the 1960s due to the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the women’s liberation movement, male students remained the clear majority. Only a handful of women were admitted each year until the end of the decade. Nancy Buc ’69 was one of eight women in her class and described the Law School as “not uniformly welcoming.” In time, Buc learned to be blunt with those who objected to female students: “Look, we’re here because we want to be lawyers.”
The first-year law class in 1966 included eight women, a record for enrollment at the time. From left to right: Jean Carr, Nancy Mattox, Mary Voce, Martha Lou Dantzler, Mary Jane Angus, Nancy Buc, Elinor Gammon, and Katy Lowden. Virginia Law Weekly, September 29, 1966.
CLARK HALL (PICTURED IN BACKGROUND) HOUSED THE LAW SCHOOL FROM 1932 TO 1974.
“I HAD TO THINK TO MYSELF, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WANT YOU HERE. THERE ARE PROFESSORS WHO WANT YOU HERE. THERE’S AN ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE WHO VOTED YOU IN ... SO JUST AS THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT YOU HERE, —Elaine Jones ’70 THERE ARE THOSE WHO DO.” 13
I WAS TRYING TO DECIDE WHAT WAS
THE LADIES’ ROOM Building community in the basement of Clark Hall.
aw School women found solidarity and built community in a surprising corner of Clark Hall: the ladies’ restroom. This small space, partitioned into a restroom and lounge, served as a gathering spot for female law students and staff. Nancy Buc ’69, Elaine Jones ’70, and many of their female classmates recall the lounge as a space to foster friendships in an area away from their majority male peers. Women law students found here a place for impromptu conversation, respite, comradery, and even the chance encounter that later helped
bring about the founding of Virginia Law Women (see page 18). Tucked away in the basement and originally reserved for secretaries and library staff, the restroom lounge underwent a renovation in 1962 under the direction of Frances Farmer to accommodate the growing number of women at the Law School. Women congregated in these spaces because the existing faculty and student lounges felt unwelcoming. A 1962 Virginia Law Weekly article described the fourth-floor faculty lounge as having an “overwhelmingly male, club-
Clark Hall, completed in 1932, was originally constructed with one restroom reserved for female secretaries and library staff. This schematic from the building’s original blueprint shows the layout of the restroom before renovations in 1962.
GENDER AND WHAT WAS RACE , IN TERMS OF WHAT I
—Elaine Jones ’70
On November 8, 1962, the Virginia Law Weekly announced that Frances Farmer had supervised a renovation of the “formerly dark, drab and generally unattractive ladies’ room” into a “cheerful feminine oasis.” The renovation partitioned the room into a lounge, shared between female staff and students, and a restroom.
Law School registrar Virginia Haigh (right) and other staff members convene in the women’s lounge in the early 1970s.
like atmosphere,” while the culture and traditions of the ground-floor student lounge “denied [women law students] entrance as effectively as would written law.” The Law Weekly declared the new basement lounge spaces a “common meeting ground for all strata of Law School womankind.” Yet not all women at UVA Law shared the same experience, and the restroom was not a shelter from racial discrimination. Elaine Jones dealt with this complexity during her first year of law school: “I remember the first week there buying the books, and I was sitting in the ladies room downstairs on that sofa. I was the only one in there and I had
the books.... And this white lady comes through the ladies’ room, and she’s just polite to me as she can be, middleaged woman. And she looked at me sitting there. She said to me, ‘I know you’re taking your rest break now, but when you finish, would you clean the refrigerator?’ She saw color only. She didn’t see the books.” As the only women’s restroom in Clark Hall, its location in the basement did present significant inconvenience. The distance from the Clark Hall classrooms to the women’s restroom added minutes of travel time, a particular issue during law school exams. Male students, alternatively, had convenient multi-floor options. 15
BALSA FORMS AS VOICE FOR RACIAL EQUITY
he 1970s marked a milestone for Black women at UVA Law. Elaine Jones became the first Black woman to graduate from the Law School in 1970. The Black American Law Students Association (BALSA, now BLSA), a student advocacy organization in which women were heavily involved, formed the same year. BALSA gave voice to racial and equity concerns, both at UVA Law and within the Charlottesville community. BALSA members advocated for greater transparency in the faculty hiring process and for greater recruitment efforts to increase the number of Black students at the Law School. At the time, UVA Law had no Black faculty members. Margaret Poles Spencer ’72, Bobby Vassar ’72, and Leonard McCants ’72 hosted a press conference in Clark Hall on March 21, 1972, to voice BALSA’s concern over the “negligence” in the Law School’s hiring
ORGANIZING FOR CHANGE
practices. The next day, Larry Gibson, a graduate of Columbia Law School who had taught at UVA Law as an adjunct, was offered a position for the following semester. In retrospect, Spencer recalled, “We were trying to increase the numbers, obviously, of Black students. But we wanted the Law School to hire a Black professor. So I think we wanted a unified approach, an advocacy position, as a group.” Recruitment of Black students was an equally important issue for BALSA. In the early 1970s, BALSA members built upon the budding recruitment efforts of Black law students in the late 1960s. They spent weekends traveling up and down the East Coast, visiting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to encourage undergraduates to apply to law school and consider UVA Law.
“The story of BLSA at UVA Law is one of relentless advocacy and a tight-knit community.” Allison Burns ’22, BLSA President 2020-2021
From left to right, Margaret Poles Spencer ’72, Bobby Vassar ’72, and Leonard McCants ’72 at the 1972 press conference on recruiting Black faculty.
BALSA Officers, 1974-1975. Left to right: Ronald Reynolds Wesley ’75, Delores R. Boyd ’75, Kester I. Crosse ’75, Jane Freeman ’75, Dennis L. Montgomery ’75, and Sheila Jackson Lee ’75.
Virginia Law Women
n 1971, a conference at Duke University, “Woman In and Under the Law,” sparked a turning point for women’s activism at UVA Law and inspired the founding of Virginia Law Women (VLW). A handful of UVA Law students attended the conference, including Diane Hermann ’72, Elizabeth Trimble ’73, Ellen Bass Brantley ’73, and Mary Jane McFadden ’74. At Duke, they observed that other law schools had more female faculty members and more female students. Some law schools even had women’s organizations. The group returned to the Law School energized to form a women’s organization. Ideas for starting such a group had already been percolating in Clark Hall. Shortly after McFadden arrived as a 1L in 1971, she ran into Hermann in the women’s lounge in the Clark Hall basement, and the two talked organizing. Hermann loved the idea of a women’s group. They suggested the idea to Dean Monrad Paulsen, who was equally supportive. In October 1971, fliers went up around Clark Hall calling interested students to the first meeting of the Law School’s new women’s organization. Ten students attended. After some debate on the group name, they agreed on Virginia Law Women. Trimble was elected as the first president with Brantley as vice president. The founding members got to work on an agenda with three main goals: address sex discrimination in the admissions process, eliminate discriminatory interview practices among visiting job recruiters, and increase 18
the number of women on the full-time faculty (at the time, Frances Farmer was the only woman). Professor Gail Marshall had made Trimble and others feel welcome as women at the Law School, and VLW took the lead in advocating for more women on the faculty. In Spring 1972, VLW organized a student meeting with Dean Monrad Paulsen to call for a change in hiring practices. In the job recruitment process, VLW members reckoned with the issue that some firms refused to interview women at all. Others would announce during an interview that the firm did not hire women. Interviewers might ask questions of women never asked of men such as, “Do you intend to get married?” VLW’s outspoken activism against this treatment encouraged the administration to ban certain firms from recruiting at UVA Law, although the issue persisted. To increase the number of women law students, VLW members wrote welcoming letters to admitted students and recruited students at nearby women’s colleges, such as Hollins University and Randolph-Macon College. These efforts proved successful. While Trimble and Brantley’s incoming class had 22 female law students, the founding cohort of Virginia Law Women were delighted to learn that the class starting in fall 1973 would have 62 female students.
Top row, left to right: Diane Hermann ’72 and Elizabeth Trimble ’73. Bottom row, left to right: Ellen Bass Brantley ’73 and Mary Jane McFadden ’74.
encountered: Should VLW take stances on What began as ten students at a women’s political issues? Cheema decided that the group interest meeting in 1971 has grown answer should be determined by the VLW into an organization with 300 dues-paying board at the beginning of each year, a process members. Moving beyond its origins still in place today. advocating for critical change within the Recent VLW presidents have focused Law School, Virginia Law Women now hosts on diversity in the group’s structure and programs that prepare women for all stages of programming. Cheema was nervous about their legal careers. Current cornerstone events even running for president, since Virginia Law include Women in Big Law, Women in Public Women was known by some law students Service, and Diversity in Clerkships. Manal at the time as a “white Cheema ’20, who served woman’s organization.” as VLW president from “We have about three Nicole Banton ’21, who 2019-2020, explained hundred dues‑paying proceeded Cheema as that VLW’s mission is members….which is really VLW president in 2020, to “advance women exciting because that created two Diversity, in the legal profession Equity, and Inclusion professionally, socially, tells me that many women feel like this is a place chairs on the VLW and confidently.” for them.” executive board. Sujaya Members of Virginia Rajguru ’22 served as Law Women have long Sujaya Rajguru ’22 VLW president from 2021debated what constitutes 2022 and credits VLW’s sense of a women’s rights issue and when community in attracting her to the organization to take action as an organization. The group and sustaining VLW through a year of virtual has spoken out on issues of sexism in the events during the COVID-19 pandemic. The workplace, abortion access, and the Equal diversity of the board is an asset to VLW that Rights Amendment. But VLW is no longer Rajguru relied on to make co-sponsorship the only voice for women at the Law School, decisions, plan inclusive programming, and sparking new questions about intersectionality grow membership by relaying to non-white and the political versus professional mission women that VLW is also “a place for them.” of VLW. During Cheema’s tenure, she faced the question previous presidents also
MANAL CHEEMA ’20
SUJAYA RAJGURU ’22
Virginia Law Women Executive Board, 2021. Front row, left to right: Camille Boler, Heream Yang, Sabrina Palazzolo, Sujaya Rajguru, Aspen Ono, Sujata Bajracharya, Megan Phansalkar, Emily Bucholtz. Back row, left to right: Chanel Holmes, Biruktawit “Birdy” Assefa, Sabrina Mato, Crystal Zeng, Mita Ramani, Ashley Reed, Erin Magoffie, Cydney Swain, Ashley Campfield, Brecken Petty. Not pictured: Daniella Roselló, Madison Lazarek, Raelissa Glennon-Zukoff
EXPANDING THE FACULTY V
irginia Law Women led the call for more female faculty members. By 1971, 51 years after coeducation, only three women had taught at the Law School. Frances Farmer started as a lecturer in 1944 and in 1968 became the Law School’s first woman professor of law and the first woman to earn tenure at Virginia Law. In 1962, Priscilla Apperson ’62 became the second woman to teach at the Law School. Hired as an instructor, Apperson taught legal method. Gail Marshall ’68 joined the faculty in 1968, also as an instructor, and one year later she was promoted to assistant professor. By 1972, however, Farmer remained as the only female professor. VLW encouraged Law faculty and Dean Monrad
Paulsen to take a stronger, more affirmative approach to hiring female faculty members. In March 1972, VLW hosted a meeting with Dean Paulsen to discuss the lack of women on the faculty. When a male faculty member implied that there was no need to prioritize diversity in hiring, women attendees cited the Law School’s poor reputation among prospective female students. They argued that female faculty
members, like Professor Marshall, helped to recruit female students and often served as mentors. In 1973, Lillian Altree (later BeVier) joined UVA Law, eventually becoming the first woman on the fulltime teaching faculty to earn tenure at the Law School. A graduate of Stanford Law School, BeVier taught at Santa Clara Law School and served as assistant staff counsel at Stanford University before coming to UVA. BeVier was hesitant to let her gender overshadow her professional credentials. In an interview with the Virginia Law Weekly, she asserted that “I tend to view myself not as
1944: Frances Farmer begins teaching Legal Bibliography to 1Ls, becoming the first female member of the UVA Law faculty. She went on to become the first woman to earn tenure at the Law School.
Frances Farmer poses with other UVA Law faculty, ca. 1950.
a woman pursuing a career in law, but as me pursuing a career in law.” She acknowledged, however, that being a woman did influence her career and that she was eager to meet UVA Law’s female students. BeVier and the Virginia Law Women worked closely together to address issues of gender equity at the Law School.
1962: Priscilla Apperson ’62 teaches legal method with a one-year appointment to the Law faculty.
Virginia Law Weekly, March 24, 1972.
At the request of Virginia Law Women, Dean Monrad Paulsen (left) and professors Richard Merrill and Emerson Spies met with law students in 1972 to discuss the hiring of a full-time female faculty member.
1973: Lillian Altree (later BeVier) joins the faculty, eventually becoming the first woman on the full-time teaching faculty to earn tenure at the Law School.
1969: Gail Marshall ’68 becomes the first female assistant professor on the teaching faculty.
1985: Mildred Ravenell (later Robinson) becomes UVA Law’s first Black female professor. She taught federal income tax, state and local tax, and trusts and estates.
LEADING PUBLICATIONS “Your Legal Rights as a Woman” authors, 1977: (left to right) Diane Pitts, Tracy Thompson, Diane Smock, and Jackie Blyn; (not pictured) Joan Kuriansky, and Susan Buckingham Reilly.
Left: “Your Legal Rights as a Woman” handbook cover, 1979. Right: Trish Cooper ’95 and Dawn Henry ’95 at the 1994 conference of the National Women Law Student’s Association organized by VLW and the Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law.
New Editors on North Grounds
A Handbook for Virginia Women
In the 1970s, women continued to join managing boards of Virginia Law’s student organizations and journals as the Law School moved to North Grounds. Phase I (1974) created a new student office complex on the third floor, and Phase II (1979) continued this expansion. Grace Belsches ’81 kept the Barrister yearbook afloat as the sole staff member for the 1980 edition. In 1981, the Virginia Tax Review joined the third-floor journals and published its first issue. Women comprised six of the 18 positions on the
From Virginia Law Women’s third-floor space—and then from a new office in the Phase I basement—members began researching and writing a new educational handbook on Virginia law. In 1977, as women across the U.S. sought equal rights and greater freedom, six members of Virginia Law Women—Joan Kuriansky ’77, Susan Buckingham Reilly ’78, Diane Pitts ’78, Jackie Blyn ’79, Diane Smock ’79, and Tracy Thompson ’79—published “Your Legal Rights as a Woman: A Handbook for Virginians.” Funded by the Virginia Commission on the Status of Women, the text explained legal issues relevant to women.
Tax Review’s first managing board. In November 1991, Virginia Law Women President Deborah Cleary ’91 headed the steering committee for a new journal at UVA Law: The Journal of Social Policy and the Law. The idea for the new publication came from Virginia Law Women members in the late 1980s. Still in publication, the journal covers civil rights issues, employment discrimination, reproductive freedom, family law, and LGBTQ+ rights, among other topics.
“Your Legal Rights as a Woman” also included a section on the Equal Rights Amendment, which had been approved by Congress in 1972, though not by the Virginia legislature, and was awaiting ratification at the time. The handbook quickly gained popularity with women at the University and across the state. VLW dispersed two thousand copies to public libraries, state agencies, and women’s organizations. The popularity of the handbook encouraged the group to publish two subsequent editions in 1979 and 1984 to address more topics like Title IX, debt and credit, mental health issues, and domestic violence.
“ A whole lot more
In 1978, Virginia Dunmire ’79 became the first female editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Weekly. Dunmire took the helm of the Weekly after previously serving as a staff writer and then production editor. During her tenure, the newspaper won four national awards from the American Bar Association for reporting, design, and editorial cartoons.
The following year, Carol Stebbins ’80 became the first woman editor-in-chief of the Virginia Law Review. A Dillard Fellow, Stebbins’ first-year grades earned her a spot on Law Review as a second-year student. After taking over as the journal’s first female editor-in-chief in the spring of 1979, Stebbins said in an interview with the Law Weekly that she was glad this distinction “will now be out of the way” as she “would like to think it was not a factor at all.”
Third-year law student Dayna Matthew ’87 became the first Black editor of the Virginia Law Review in 1987, 74 years after the journal’s start. Matthew’s note on Virginia’s Natural Death Act earned her a spot on the Review’s editorial board at a time when students could “grade-on, writeon, or note-on.” Matthew later returned to UVA Law to teach as a member of the faculty.
needs to be made.
—Dayna Matthew ’87
Leaders & Lawyers B
“Understanding diversity makes us stronger as individuals, as lawyers and as a society.” Shruthi Prabhu ’19, President, South Asian Law Students Association, 2017 J
At our centennial of coeducation, more than 6,000 women have pursued a legal education at UVA Law.
ince the first female students matriculated at UVA Law, women have worked to upset the historically male culture in the legal profession. At the Law School, women have led academic journals, won moot court competitions and awards, and directed student organizations, all while earning their law degrees. In this section, we recognize a handful of the “firsts” achieved by UVA Law women. When female law students were few and far between, Janet Mary Riley ’60 became the first woman to obtain an LL.M. from the University in 1960 (A). As numbers slowly increased in the 1970s, women filled leadership positions in student government and in extracurriculars. In 1967, Gail Marshall ’68 was a founding member of the UVA Legal Aid Society (H). In 1972, Linda Howard ’73 became the first female and first Black student to be elected UVA Law’s student council president (F). Holly Fitzsimmons ’76 became the first woman to win the William Minor Lile Moot Court competition in 1976, pictured here with U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, a Lile Moot Court judge (I). Susan Lahne ’79 became the first alumna to clerk for a U.S. Supreme Court Justice when she accepted a clerkship with Harry Blackmun from 1980 to 1981 (C). In the 1990s and 2000s, women formed new student organizations to better encapsulate the diverse interests of the growing student body. Cynthia Rivera ’98 led Voz Latina, an association for Latin American students at UVA Law, after the group’s founding in 1995 (E). In 2001, Valerie Nannery ’03 and Maggie Vining ’03 founded Women of Color, pictured here in 2005, to build community among a diverse population of women (J). In the past 10 years, women have continued to change and challenge the face of the University. In 2016, Risa Goluboff became the 12th dean of UVA Law and the first woman to hold the position (D). In 2020, Cathy Hwang became the first Asian American woman to earn tenure at UVA Law as a member of the full-time teaching faculty (G). Also in 2020, Chloe Fife ’21 was the first transgender woman elected president of the Law School’s Lambda Law Alliance (B). Formerly the Gay and Lesbian Law Student Association, Lambda was founded at UVA Law in 1984.
LINDA HOWARD ’73 (LEFT) AND DEAN RISA GOLUBOFF AT UVA LAW’S 2019 FINAL EXERCISES
PRESERVING OUR STORIES
“THESE STORIES REMIND US THAT OUR HISTORY IS MADE BY EACH OF US AND ALL OF US... THEY FORM A PICTURE OF THE SCHOOL’S COMPLEX AND GRADUAL EVOLUTION TOWARD A MORE INCLUSIVE INSTITUTION THAT STILL AFFIRMS OUR FOUNDING VALUES OF EDUCATING LAWYERS WITH RIGOR, BREADTH, AND A COMMITMENT TO SERVE AND LEAD OUR DEMOCRACY.
he Law Library recently launched the Women’s Oral History Project (WOHP) to preserve and share the history of women at the Law School. WOHP facilitates individual oral history interviews and collaborative oral history projects with student organizations to expand and diversify the voices in the Law Library’s archives. WOHP builds upon the legacy of Frances Farmer, who conducted numerous oral history interviews with UVA Law faculty, administrators, and alums following her retirement in 1976. The Law Library’s revitalized interest in oral history will ensure that the Farmer interviews will be digitally preserved and become a more accessible resource for those researching the Law School’s institutional history. If you are interested in learning more, being interviewed, or suggesting someone who should be interviewed, please contact the Law Library at email@example.com.
A. FRANCES FARMER’S LEGACY Frances Farmer (left) interviewed Margaret Gordon Seiler ’51 in 1982 (see page 11). The two discussed Seiler and other women’s experiences at UVA Law, including that of Elizabeth Tompkins.
B. HONORING STAFF MEMBERS Taylor Fitchett, director of the Law Library from 1996 to 2018, contributed to the Law Library’s revitalized oral history program by participating in an interview on May 8, 2019.
C. VIRTUAL CONNECTIONS Our oral history program remained active on Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic. Law Library staff interviewed former Virginia Law Women president Celeste Redmond-Smith ’85 in February 2022 as part of an effort to preserve that organization’s 50-year history.
—Dean Risa Goluboff, 2019 26