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The first female U.S. attorney lived in….Iowa

Monday, March 4, 2019

Arabella Mansfield was a trailblazer all her life. The Iowan was admitted to the Iowa Bar in 1869. While that may seem like an insignificant fact, it is, in fact, significant: Mansfield was the first woman in the United States to become an attorney.

It wasn’t without challenge, literally. Indeed, at the time, the law profession was limited only to men. She challenged that law and, thankfully, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with her.

Born in Des Moines County in 1846, she moved with her family to Mount Pleasant where she was raised. Whether it was a coincidence or something in the water, Mount Pleasant also produced Clara Foltz – a contemporary of Mansfield’s – who went on to become the first female attorney on the West Coast.

So it’s fitting that Mansfield is remembered during National Women’s History Month (she’s actually a two-fer since it’s also Iowa History Month).

Even though she was trained as a lawyer, Mansfield spent most of her career (again, considering the time in history, a career was rare!) in college administration. She also was a key player in Iowa’s suffrage movement, having worked with Susan B. Anthony.

Uncover the rich history of women in Iowa and America. Here are some great resources:


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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on January 19, 2021 at 2:36pm.