Bar None: 125 Years of Women Lawyers in Illinois

Celebrating the anniversary of the admission of the first woman lawyer to the Illinois bar, Bar None: 125 Years of Women Lawyers in Illinois explores the historical significance of the first generation of Illinois woman lawyers. This exhibit tells the story of women's fight to open the legal profession in Illinois and highlights the lives and work of some of the state's first 100 women lawyers, who were admitted to the bar during the period 1873 to 1901. The activities of these pioneers included every form of law practice as well as leadership in many of the social and political reform movements of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. Formerly overlooked by historians and legal scholars, these early women lawyers were leaders in the movements that established the nation's first juvenile court, secured woman suffrage, and advocated reforms to assist women and children working in sweatshops at the turn of the century. This exhibit documents the activities of Illinois' women lawyers and suggests their centrality in the debate over the volatile issues of women's rights, gender roles, and the development of the legal profession.

The Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women with the assistance of the Chicago Public Library created the Bar None exhibit in 1998 to share the story of Illinois' first generation of women lawyers on their 125th Anniversary. It brought together items otherwise housed in attics and library archives throughout the country to reveal the larger story of these harbingers. Displayed in the Special Collections Exhibit Hall in the Harold Washington Center of the Chicago Public Library, the exhibit opened on March 6, 1998 to an audience of over 400. More than 10,000 patrons viewed the exhibit during its extended twenty-week run. In October 1998 Bar None won the Superior Achievement Award, the highest honor conveyed by the Illinois Association of Museums. This website, sponsored by The Chicago Bar Association, offers a glimpse of the exhibit, capturing the essence of the lives and work of Illinois' first generation of women lawyers.


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