Here's a little piece of Iowa history that you might not have known. There is one very special woman that we can attribute to opening doors for women to become lawyers. Her name? Arabella Mansfield.

 

In 1869, despite Iowa state law prohibiting women from taking the bar test, Arabella Mansfield took it and passed with flying colors. Soon after her legal challenge, Iowa ultimately changed its license legislation and became the first state to admit women and minorities to the bar, resulting in our state having the first female attorney in the US!

Mansfield didn't go to law school, but she studied for two years in her brother's law office in Mount Pleasant to prepare. She was a trailblazer in the Iowa suffrage movement, chairing the first state conference of the Iowa Suffrage Association in 1870. She served as the organization's first secretary and advocated for equal educational opportunities and voting rights for women.

Despite Mansfield's admission to the bar, she spent most of her career as an educator and activist, teaching at Iowa Wesleyan College and DePauw University.

And now you know! Thank you, Arabella.

"There was a quiet determination and dedication in every event of the life of Belle A. Mansfield."
--Dr. Louis A. Haselmayer, Women's Lawyer Journal, Spring 1969


 

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