Skip to Content

Schnader Salutes Clara Shortridge Foltz, an Unsung Woman Hero, in Honor of International Women’s Day

On March 10, 2020 by Schnader in News

In honor of International Women’s Day 2020, each day this week we will be sharing stories of unsung women who have made great changes in the world.

When Clara Shortridge Foltz’s husband abandoned her in 1877, she was left to raise five children on her own. She began studying law in the office of a local judge in an attempt to start a career as a lawyer and support her family. But California state law prohibited women from taking the bar examination. So she drew up an amendment to the California Constitution, the “Woman Lawyer’s Bill,” that changed the words for who could practice law in the state from “white male” to “any citizen or person.” On the final day the bill could be signed into law, she personally convinced the governor to sign it.

The fight wasn’t over. When she attempted to formalize her legal education, she was denied entry into the state’s only law school based on her gender. In response, she fought the decision all the way to the California Supreme Court. Although the court ruled in her favor, she was unable to afford formal law school after the protracted legal battle.

She ultimately was able to practice law, and in 1893, she gave a speech putting forth the idea that public defenders should provide legal assistance to indigent defendants. Clara Shortridge Foltz would go on to become the first female notary public, the first woman-named director of a major bank, and the first female deputy district attorney in the United States. Schnader salutes Clara Shortridge Foltz. We are inspired by her contributions.

More information about Clara Shortridge Foltz can be found here:

https://www.calbarjournal.com/March2012/TopHeadlines/TH4.aspx

https://www.countyofsb.org/defender/asset.c/54