American Legal History

Women in Law School and the Legal Profession

Wikipedia Entry

I added a "History of Women in Law School" section to the Wikipedia page "Law School in the United States" under the History Section. My username on Wikipedia is agnespet.

The Wikipeida entry was edited using Law School by Robert Stevens as the sole source. I will add to the Wikipedia page as I find more secondary sources, and will add the primary sources that I find here.

Foltz v. Hoge

Clara S. Foltz was the first woman lawyer on the Pacific coast. She also never got a degree from any law school; at the time, one did not need to get a law degree in order to be admitted to the bar. When Hastings Law School was established, although Foltz had already been admitted to the California bar (despite some struggle there as well), she wanted to expand the humble amount of formal education she had received, and applied for admittance.

In 1879, the only admission requirement for Hastings law School was the payment of a "ten-dollar tuition fee."(1) Although hesitant, the Registrar accepted her payment, and Foltz successfully attended Hastings Law School for all of three days.(2) After braving hazings by her fellow classmates and the janitor for three days and at the end of the third day, receiving a letter from the registrar indicating that she was denied further attendance at the school, Foltz turned to the courts to demand admission.(3)

Although the district court opinion is not easily accessible, it is found printed word-for-word in the March 6, 1879 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.(4) The question of whether Foltz, as a woman, should be allowed to attend Hastings law School, was answered in the affirmative, based on the interpretation of the two acts establishing 1) the University of California; and 2) Hastings Law School as an affiliate of the University of California, respectively.(5) Because the act establishing the University of California did not specify any restrictions on attendance besides being 14 years of age and of good moral character, and because the act establishing Hastings Law School did not add any further restrictions, as an affiliate, the law school could not impose restrictions that were not specified in the legislation. The opinion briefly notes at the end the new federal law that allows women to practice law and the draft of the new California State constitution, yet to be ratified, which "contains a clause that no person on account of sex shall be disqualified from entering any profession or occupation."(6)

Hastings Law School appealed, and the case proceeded to the Supreme Court of California.(7) By the time the case was adjudicated in the Supreme Court, the new California State Constitution had been ratified. Indeed, the opinion again briefly refers to this at the end. However, the main legal basis continued to rest on the implications of the two Acts establishing the University of California and Hastings Law School. The civil rights aspect of the opinion rested on the fact that Congress and the state constitution allowed women to practice law, not on any right for women to access the same caliber of education as men. Further, the opinions left open the possibility of defining restrictions in a school's constitutive documents, including restrictions based on sex, as long as the restriction was not an ad hoc act of discretion. Further, even the issue of discretion may be inapplicable in the case of private schools rather than public.

None of the subsequent cases that cite to Foltz v. Hoge are related to the issues of women's right to higher education. The precedent that Foltz v. Hoge established was one relating to the relationship between a public university and its affiliated colleges.(8) Although Foltz later refers to her victory in _Foltz v. Hoge as "the greatest moment of her public career," in terms of real strides for women's rights, the victory in court did much less than what was achieved by legislative reform, which Foltz was a large part of as well.(9)

It is also important to note that Foltz never received a degree from Hastings Law School. Having only a modest income and five children, Foltz had originally intended to move to San Francisco and attend Hastings Law School relying on the scholarship her female activist friends had contributed to her. But because of the appeal, too much time had passed and her scholarship funds were gone; she needed to work for a living, rather than attend school. Still, Foltz did attend the law school to the extent that she could:

In the latter part of 1880, Foltz moved her practice back fo San Francisco and attended occasional lectures at the school. In 1889, she applied to Hastings for a degree, which was denied because she had not completed the course. In 1925, she asked for an honorary degree, also denied on the ground that the school did not confer them. . . . In 1991, at the instigation of its women students, Hastings awarded Clara Foltz a J.D. degree posthumously. Foltz continued to be sensitive about her lack of education, and over the years changed her three years of formal schooling to "private tutoring and two years at Hastings."(10)

Foltz v. Hoge, although a technical victory for Foltz, did very little to advance's Foltz's position or for women in general. Most of her real triumphs came from her role in the constitutional convention and other suffragist activities that involved legislative reform.

Primary Sources

Constitutions and Statutes

  • Cal. Const. art. IX, 9 (1879). (Attached below)
  • Cal. Const. art. XX, 18 (1879). (Attached below)


  • Foltz v. Hoge et al., 54 Cal. 28 (1879). (Attached below)
  • In re Estate of Royer, 56 P. 461 (Cal. 1899). (Attached below)
  • People ex rel. Hastings v. Kewen, 10 P. 393 (Cal. 1886). (Attached below)
  • Coutin v. Lucas, 270 Cal. Rptr. 93 (Cal. Ct. App. 1990). (Attached below)
  • Tafoya v. Hastings College, 236 Cal. Rptr. 395 (Cal. Ct. App. 1987). (Attached below)


  • The Lady Lawyer, San Francisco Chron., Mar. 6, 1879, at 3. (Attached below)
  • Woman at the Bar, San Francisco Chron., Jan. 30, 1879, at 3. (Attached below)
  • Why It Was Denied, San Francisco Chron., Feb. 13, 1879, at 4. (Attached below)
  • The Lady Lawyers, San Francisco Chron., Feb. 15, 1879, at 2. (Attached below)
  • Woman's Rights: Mesdames Folz and Gordon's Arguments Yesterday, San Francisco Chron., Feb. 25, 1879, at 1. (Attached below)




Secondary Sources


  • Barbara Babcock, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz (2011).
  • Robert B. Stevens, Law School: legal education in America from the 1850s to the 1980s (1983).

Law Review Articles

  • Barbara A. Babcock, Clara Shortridge Foltz: "First Woman", 28 Val. U. L. Rev. 1231 (1994).



1 , 2 : Barbara Babcock, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz (2011).

3 : Foltz recounts some of her hazing experience in Women's Herald of Industry, Apr. 1884, at 1, available at; see also Barbara Babcock, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz (2011).

4 , 5 : The Lady Lawyer, San Francisco Chron., Mar. 6, 1879, at 3.

6 : The Lady Lawyer, San Francisco Chron., Mar. 6, 1879, at 3; for actual language, see Cal. Const. art. XX, 18 (1879).

7 : Foltz v. Hoge et al., 54 Cal. 28 (1879).

8 : See Coutin v. Lucas, 270 Cal. Rptr. 93, 97 (Cal. Ct. App. 1990) ("Hastings is affiliated with the university and subject to the same general laws, except as otherwise expressly provided."); In re Estate of Royer, 56 P. 461, 463 (Cal. 1899) ("In Foltz v. Hoge and People v. Kewen, where the status of the Hastings College of Law as an affiliated college of the university was considered, this court seems to have treated the university as a state institution to which a college might be attached under the organic act of 1868."); People ex rel. Hastings v. Kewen, 10 P. 393, 393 (Cal. 1886) ("The petition in this case is based on the fact of such affiliation, and it was held by this court in Foltz v. Hoge . . . that the law college had affiliated with the university, and had become an integral part thereof, subject to the same general provisions of the law as were applicable to the university."); Tafoya v. Hastings College, 236 Cal. Rptr. 395, 401 (Cal. Ct. App. 1987) ("In the leading case of Foltz v. Hoge, . . . our Supreme Court, in ruling against Hastings, declared, 'It was, in our opinion, the intent of the Legislature, that the College, when established, should affiliate with the University, and be governed by the laws applicable to the University, except as otherwise provided, either in the Act of 1868 or the Act or 1878 . . . .")

9 : Barbara Babcock, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz, 57 (2011).

10 : Barbara A. Babcock, Clara Shortridge Foltz: "First Woman", 28 Val. U. L. Rev. 1231, n.217 (1994)


Webs Webs

Attachments Attachments

  Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
pdf 1879-constitution.pdf props, move 1610.8 K 06 Dec 2012 - 20:05 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf Coutin_v._Lucas.pdf props, move 610.2 K 05 Dec 2012 - 17:51 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf Foltz_v__Hoge.pdf props, move 27.0 K 05 Dec 2012 - 16:48 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf People_ex_rel__Hastings_v__K.pdf props, move 17.4 K 05 Dec 2012 - 17:33 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf SF_Chronicle_Feb._13_1879.pdf props, move 23.3 K 06 Jan 2013 - 01:41 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf SF_Chronicle_Feb._15_1879.pdf props, move 61.1 K 06 Jan 2013 - 01:55 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf SF_Chronicle_Feb._25_1879.pdf props, move 149.3 K 06 Jan 2013 - 03:57 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf SF_Chronicle_Jan._30_1879.pdf props, move 158.4 K 06 Dec 2012 - 18:47 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf SF_Chronicle_Mar._6_1879.pdf props, move 104.4 K 06 Dec 2012 - 18:35 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf Tafoya_v._Hastings_College.pdf props, move 524.0 K 05 Dec 2012 - 18:00 AgnesPetrucione  
pdf in_re_estate_of_royer.pdf props, move 36.7 K 05 Dec 2012 - 17:25 AgnesPetrucione  
r7 - 05 Jun 2013 - 20:18:02 - IanSullivan
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