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In the Pursuit of My Legal Studies

1878 —  Meeting of women’s rights activists, Iowa


I have no desire to recount the old barbarities of the common law, or the disabilities under which the women of Iowa, in common with the women of States under similar legislation, have labored. The doctrine of “merger” seems to have had its fullest illustration, and to have realised its most perfect application, in the civil relations which married women held, Jonah and the whale very properly representing the civil rights of husbands and wives. I believe it is a matter of history that during a period in Jonah’s life he was not in a condition to make contracts with the commercial world, or enforce his civil rights. The whale was a necessary party to be consulted in all matters relating to his personal rights and the enjoyment of his personal property . . .

I am not aware that any lady besides myself in engaged in actual practice in the courts. I speak from experience. It has been my privilege to try cases in all the courts, and with a single exception of an attorney who was under the influence of liquor, I have been treated with uniform courtesy and respect. I might speak at length of my experience in the courts, but time will not permit. I claim no heroism either in the pursuit of my legal studies or in the performance of my professional duties I began the study of law because my husband is al lawyer, and because I wanted to know what he knew, and do, as much as I could, what he did. I have read Blackstone for hours when my children were playing about me. I was as ready to pause and attend to their little calls as though I had been engaged with my needle, and quite as well as if I had been reading a gay romance. I passed my examination, and was introduced to the profession at my husband’s earnest request, and today the firm of Foster and Foster is harmonious in itself and at peace with all the world.



Source: The Englishwoman’s Review of Social and Industrial Questions, 1879, p. 54.


Also: The Woman’s Journal, 387, Nov. 30, 1878.