By 1920, women had achieved the right to vote, and all states admitted women to the bar.
However, women graduating from law schools faced the virtually impossible task of finding employment as lawyers. Instead, women often took jobs as stenographers or librarians in law firms or went into practice with their male relatives.
In 1921, Caroline Eirmann Lillard and her husband George founded the Hartford College of Law, which is now the University of Connecticut School of Law.
Although the original purpose of the school was to teach law to employees of local insurance companies and other organizations, the Lillards accepted anyone interested in the law.
J. Agnes Burns became the first woman to graduate from the Hartford College of Law in 1924.
She was admitted to the bar in January 1925 and, only two months later, became the first woman lawyer to appear before the Connecticut Supreme Court. Although Burns was elected to the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1931, it was not for another year that she and two other women were first admitted to membership in the Connecticut Bar Association.
Shirley Raissi Bysiewicz graduated from UConn Law in 1954, became the first full-time woman faculty member in 1956, and the first female tenured professor and law library director in 1972.
That same year, she began teaching a course on Sex Based Discrimination in the Law, the first time that such a topic had been taught at the school. Always active in women's rights and an outspoken advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment, she was the founder of the Connecticut Women's Educational and Legal Fund, a public interest law firm specializing in sex discrimination, and served on numerous committees in support of the cause, including as a state delegate for the National Association of Women Lawyers.
Constance Belton Green became the first African American woman to graduate from UConn Law in 1972
Graduating one year later, and passing the bar in 1974, Bassye Warren Bennet became the first African American woman licensed to practice law in Connecticut.
The first African American woman faculty member was Paula Bonds, who taught civil rights law from 1983 to 1985.
At UConn Law, students, faculty, staff, and alumni have a long history of supporting equal rights.
Inspired by the historic actions of suffragists and other activists, both local and national, over the course of a century, the community must march on towards greater diversity, inclusivity, and equality, at the law school and across the world.