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Belva Lockwood: America’s First Generation of Female Lawyers

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Hear a historian's introduction on Lockwood, a women's rights advocate, in a video from a program at the Newseum.

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Watch Jill Norgren’s introduction to learn more about Lockwood’s life and legal career. In the video you will hear about Lockwood’s career as a lawyer, the challenges she overcame to become the first woman admitted to the Supreme Court Bar and her work on women’s suffrage that would ultimately lead to her to run for president.

Norgren is the author of “Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President,” and co-founder of the website View the website for more information on women who ran for political office before 1920. To view Norgren’s information on the talk, visit her website. Click here to see more on Lockwood from the Newseum collection.

In partnership with the law firm O’Melveny & Myers and the non-profit The Green Bag, Newseum Education hosted a moot court (or re-enactment) of Bradwell v. Illinois (1873).  The moot court was planned in honor the life of Belva Lockwood, the first woman admitted to the Supreme Court Bar and thus allowed to argue before the court. The program, featuring Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was held Oct. 18, 2016, at the Newseum.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle and high school

TIME: 30-60 minutes

MATERIALS: Copies of “Belva Lockwood and America’s First Generation of Female Lawyers” worksheet


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Overview PDF DOC
Worksheets PDF DOC
Extensions PDF DOC
Full Packet PDF DOC

To request a large print or Braille version, call 202.292.6650.


  1. Pass out copies of the Belva Lockwood worksheet. Have students watch the video on Belva Lockwood and America’s First Generation of Female Lawyers.
  2.  Students will write down three events from Lockwood’s life from before and after her appointment to the Supreme Court Bar.
  3. After the video, either individually or in groups, students will discuss how Belva Lockwood used her First Amendment Rights to advocate for women’s rights. There is a visual copy of the First Amendment at the top of this page for students to reference.
    1. For example, Lockwood used freedom of the press to publish her writings to advance the rights of women.
  4. A written transcript of the video can be found on Jill Norgren’s website and accessed by the link provided above.
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After students have watched the video, discuss their findings as a group. Prompts include:

  • Lockwood lived before the passage of the 19th Amendment yet she still participated in American politics. Which events in her life best illustrate her involvement in politics?
  • What events in American history do you think impacted Lockwood’s life (1830-1917)?
  • How do you think being the first woman admitted to the Supreme Court Bar influenced the cases she chose to argue?
  • Why do you think America saw an emergence of female lawyers in the years following the Civil War?
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