Women Practicing Law: Crossing Another Boundary

Women Practicing Law: Crossing Another Boundary
Hillary Clinton: First Ladies' Lives

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Three to four class periods


In September, 1969, Hillary Rodham became one of only 30 students among a class of 160 students enrolled in the Yale Law School.  Like many First Ladies before her, Hilary Rodham broke barriers for other women who followed her; one of these was demonstrating that women could, should, and do practice law.


Students who participate in this activity will develop an understanding of the history of women in the law, as well as gain experience in speculative problem solving.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet.  Access to books and other print materials about women in the law, and/or about the first two female Justices on the Supreme Court.


1.  Ask students if any of them think they might like to study law and become attorneys.  Both boys and girls who are interested in the law should be able to profit from a study of women's experience with the law.

2.  Using the web sites listed below, divide students into five groups, asking each group to research one of the following aspects of the history of women in the law:

  • Why was it so difficult for women to enter the legal profession?
  • What attitudes and values tended to prevent women from practicing law?
  • Who were some of the early women who pioneered in the legal profession?
  • How has the situation changed for women who wish to enter the law?
  • What problems, if any, still need to be solved?

3.  When students have finished their research, ask each group to prepare a PowerPoint presentation which lays out the substance of their findings to share with the rest of the class.

4.  Conclude the lesson with a whole-class discussion of problems and issues that still remain for women in the law and ask them to speculate on possible solutions.


Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended by inviting a female attorney to visit the class and speak with students, or by creating a "Pioneer Women in the Law" book or display.

Sources & Resources:


Early Women in the Law

Women Lawyers and State Bar Admission

Women Lawyers in the United States

Women and Other Strangers Before the Bar

Women in the Law Today

An Unfishished Agenda: Women in the Legal Profession

Sandra Day O'Connor

Ruth Bader Ginsburg



This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.