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scwla timeline

1890: The first women entered the University of South Carolina School of Law, but eventually dropped out, probably because women were not permitted to practice law. Before women were admitted to the bar in South Carolina, some attended law school outside of the state and then returned to practice without appearing in court.

1916: Claudia James Sullivan entered the University of South Carolina School of Law by convincing the faculty that legislation permitting women to practice law was pending. At this time, all students who graduated from law school, male or female, were automatically admitted to the bar without taking the bar examination.

1918: February 14, 1918: Governor Richard I. Manning signed the bill permitting women to practice law. This legislation was initiated by Sullivan and her supporters.

May 3, 1918: James Perry, named after her father, became the first woman admitted to the South Carolina Bar.

1920: August 26, 1920: Enough states ratified the constitutional amendment to allow women to vote in national elections. South Carolina did not ratify the amendment until 1969.

1921: South Carolina passed an act allowing women to vote in state elections, but continued to prohibit them from serving on jury duty.

1923: The first women-only law firm in South Carolina was formed, and included Julia David Charles and Anna McCants Beaty, both of Greenville.

1925: The South Carolina General Assembly passed an act which moved toward emancipating married women, allowing them to sue and be sued.

1937: James Perry became the first woman partner in a South Carolina law firm.

1938: In English common law, when a man and woman married, they became one and that one was the man. In this year, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that a wife was a separate legal entity from her husband.

1941: The first African-American woman lawyer, Cassandra E. Maxwell of Orangeburg County, was admitted to the South Carolina Bar.

1969: The South Carolina General Assembly passed legislation permitting women to serve on state court juries in South Carolina.

1972-1973: Jean Hoefer Toal successfully prosecuted an action in federal court, on behalf of law student Vicki Eslinger to force the South Carolina Senate to allow Eslinger to serve as a Page. That same year a committee of third year law students from the University of South Carolina School of Law hosted the National Conference on Women at University of South Carolina School of Law School.

1982: The South Carolina General Assembly first elected a woman as a family court judge, Judge Judy Bridges, by one vote.

1984: Jean Galloway Bissell became the first woman from South Carolina to serve as a federal judge. President Reagan appointed her to the U.S. Tax Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

1988: Jean Hoefer Toal was the first woman elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

1993: Elaine Fowler became the first woman President of the South Carolina Bar.

September 22, 1993: The first organizational meeting of the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association was held in the auditorium of the USC School of Law. SCWLA ratified a prior act of filing an amicus curiae brief in the case of State v. Pace, 316 S.C. 71, 447 S.E.2d 186 (1994). The issue in the Pace case was whether the patronizing comments made by the trial judge concerning the woman's defense counsel entitled the defendant to a new trial. A new trial was granted.

1994: South Carolina Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA) is formed.

2000: Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal became the first woman Chief Justice in South Carolina.

2004: SCWLA formed the Ladder Group, chaired by Barbara Barton, to promote women lawyers for leadership positions.


May 13, 2009: The Honorable Kaye G. Hearn was elected to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

May 27, 2009: The South Carolina Court of Appeals held its first all-female panel including Chief Judge Kaye Hearn, Judge Paula Thomas, and Judge Aphrodite Konduros.

September 30, 2009 - October 2, 2009: SCWLA and the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys hosted a joint CLE and dinner conversation with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Retired.

2011: SCWLA creates the South Carolina Women Lawyers Foundation.


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