Belva Ann Lockwood

October 24 is the birthday of an amazing woman that I had never heard of. Belva Lockwood was born in 1830. She is mainly known for being the first woman attorney to plead before the Supreme Court, and as the first woman to run as a legitimate candidate for president.

Already teaching school at 14, Belva married at 18 and was widowed shortly afterward. Realizing she needed a better job with better pay to raise her daughter, she went back to school, a move that was frowned upon. Women seldom sought higher education, and certainly not widows! After graduation, she was headmistress of several schools. It was during this time she met Susan B. Anthony, and became attracted to many of her ideas about women’s equality. Not surprising, as Lockwood was paid only fifty percent of what men in her position earned.

Later, she became interested in law and finally found a school that would allow her to attend. However, though she passed her courses with honors, the school refused to grant her a diploma because of her sex. Feisty woman that she was, she wrote to President Grant as president ex officio of the school, and within a short time had her diploma.

She had to work slowly and take small steps as she built up a practice, as not many were interested in a female attorney. She became known as an advocate for women’s issues, arguing such cases as those involving equal pay for women. She was also active in women’s suffrage movements. In 1880 she became the first woman to argue a case in the Supreme Court and later sponsored Samuel R. Lowery to the Supreme Court bar, making him the fifth black attorney to be admitted, and ultimately the first to argue a case before the court.

Belva Lockwood was the first woman to run for President of the United States. Lockwood  was the candidate of the National Equal Rights Party. She ran in the presidential elections of 1884 and 1888, knowing she wouldn’t win, but using it to advance the cause of women’s rights. She received 4100 votes, which is quite amazing as women could not vote at that time. Also it was said, that many ballots marked for her were torn up and thrown away.

In her later years, she did much writing, and was a strong advocate for peace. She died in 1917 and is buried in Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC. Though it’s too dark to use here, I hope you will take a look at her portrait from the National Gallery. It shows her getting an honorary degree from Syracuse University. She looks like a strong woman and a great role model. The picture of her below is from her younger days.

Quotes by Belva Lockwood

If nations could only depend upon fair and impartial judgments in a world court of law, they would abandon the senseless, savage practice of war.

The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents.

I know we can’t abolish prejudice through laws, but we can set up guidelines for our actions by legislation.

I do not believe in sex distinction in literature, law, politics, or trade – or that modesty and virtue are more becoming to women than to men, but wish we had more of it everywhere.

Even if women in the United States are not permitted to vote, there is no law against their being voted for and, if elected, filling the highest office … Why not nominate women for important places?… The Republican Party… has little but insult for women when they appear before its conventions. It is time we had our own party, our own platform and our own nominees.

I am, and always have been a progressive woman, and while never directly attacking the conventionalities of society, have always done, or attempted to do those things which I have considered conducive to my health, convenience or emolument.

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