6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

Stories from Trailblazing Women Lawyers

Beginning immediately after World War II and continuing through the 1970s changes in U.S. public policy, along with the impact of the second women’s movement, and women’s increased reproductive control, upended longstanding resistance to female participation in the profession of law. Award-winning legal historian Jill Norgren describes the lives of 100 women lawyers who were on the front lines fighting for access to law schools and good legal careers. Her book, based on oral interviews carried out by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession and the Senior Lawyers Division, reveals the profound changes that began in the late 1960s, ending the near-exclusion of women from law schools and slowly increasing the career opportunities available to them. In her talk Norgren uses the words of these trailblazers to tell their stories, words that evoke pain as well as celebration, somber reflection, and humor.

Jill Norgren is professor emerita of political science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and University Graduate Center, the City University of New York. She has a Ph.D. (American politics) from the University of Michigan. Her most recent books include American Cultural Pluralism and Law (several editions); Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would be President (2007); and Rebels at the Bar: The Fascinating, Forgotten Stories of America’s First Women Lawyers (2013).

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University) and Philippa Strum (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.




  • Eric Arnesen

    Professor of History, The George Washington University
  • Philippa Strum

    Global Fellow
    Former Director, Division of United States Studies, Woodrow Wilson Center


  • Jill Norgren

    Professor Emerita of Political Science at John Jay College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York