Bell-Mansfield

Woman as Lawyer – The Bar has Surrendered

And now the Bar has surrendered. Woman carried Medicine and Ministry long ago. And now the Legal profession is hers. Some of the newspapers not long since thought the woman question was dying out. They even interpreted the President’s prayer, “ Let us have Peace,” as a hushbaby to the Woman question, with others. When this country has peace again, it will be in the name of justice and liberty, not despotism. Woman is going to possess the land in common with man. The whole land and all that appertains. Province after province surrenders. Here is what the Mount Pleasant (Iowa) Journal says of the admission of a lady lawyer to the bar:

During the term of the District Court, held in this city the fore part of last week, Mrs. Bell A. Mansfield, A. B., (Arabella Mansfield – May 23, 1846 – August 1, 1911 – born Belle Aurelia Babb) of this city was admitted to the bar and authorized to practice in the courts of the state.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Women’s Suffrage Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily (1849-1856), National Citizen and Ballot Box (1878-1881), The Revolution (1868-1872), The New Citizen (1909-1912), The Western Woman Voter (1911-1913), The Woman’s Tribune (1883-1909) and the antisuffrage newspaper, The Remonstrance (1890-1913).

Mrs. Mansfield is a young married lady of about twenty-four years of age, is a graduate of the Iowa Wesleyan University, and a lady of a strong mind. That she has the brains and the necessary ability to make a good record for herself in the profession of her choice no one will dispute Her husband, Professor J. M. Mansfield, was also admitted at the same time. We publish below, the report of the committee appointed by the court to examine and report upon the qualifications of Mrs. Mansfield:

“The undersigned committee, appointed by the court to examine and report upon the qualifications of Mrs. Arabella A. Mansfield, who has this day applied for authority to perform the duties, and have and receive the benefits of an attorney and counseller for this court beg leave to report: That Mrs. Mansfield having passed a most eminently satisfactory examination, giving the very best evidence of long and careful study, of excellent application, and a thorough acquaintance with the elementary principles of law.

“Your committee take unusual pleasure in recommending the admission of Mrs. Mansfield, not only because she is the first lady who has applied for this authority in this state, but because, in her examination, she has given the very best rebuke possible to the imputation that ladies cannot qualify for the practice of law. And we feel confident from the intimation of the Court given on the application made, that we speak not only the sentiments of the Court, and of your committee, but the entire members of the bar, when we say that we heartily welcome Mrs. Mansfield as one of our members and most cordially recommend her admission.

The New York Express , a radical (some say rabid ) democratic journal, says of this event:

As an innovation upon established custom, it has incited a deal of comment; but none of it that we have encountered contains a word against the policy of permitting females to become lawyers and to practice law upon terms of equality with men. In certain branches of legal practice, women could be quite as effective as men—perhaps more valuable as counsellors. In chamber practice, rather than as pleaders at the bar, they in many cases might excel male lawyers.

When the Express wrote this, it could not have seen the sneers and jeers with which the New York Tribune greeted woman’s first entrance into a, new and enviable position.

Source: The Revolution – July 8, 1869

The following death notice, from The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on August 03, 1911 has her admission to the bar date as 1868.

Belle Mansfield Death Notice

Belle Mansfield Death Notice

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