LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO SCHOOL of LAW (2016 Winter Magazine) - page 14-15

Celebrating Loyola’s
women lawyers
istory was made 90 years ago when, at the
law school’s graduation on June 10, 1925,
Margaret C. Byrne walked across the stage
and was awarded her law degree. Minutes
later she was followed by four of her women classmates:
Camille Caravetta, Celia M. Gilmore, Jessie McGreever,
and Alice Mary O’Kane (pictured above).
After all-male graduations since the school’s
founding in 1908, five women broke the barrier and led
a procession of professional women that continues to
this day.
As late as the spring of 1921, the University could
advertise that its “medical and sociological schools”—
but not the other schools—admitted women. By
Illinois boasted the first woman to
graduate from any law school when
in 1870 Ada Miser Kepley graduated
from Union College of Law (a
predecessor of Northwestern); she
too was denied admission to the bar,
until 1881. The first woman admitted
to practice in Illinois was Alta Hulett
in 1871, on her 19th birthday.
Participating fully
Once women were allowed to
enroll at Loyola, they seem to have
participated rather fully in the life
of the law school, at least so far as
surviving records indicate. Women
law students were often elected as
class officers. It is likely, however, that
the women students were treated
differently from the men, both in
class and outside of it, because of
the novelty of their presence. In its
first year of law school, the class that
eventually graduated in 1930 could
describe itself this way: “Male and
female were represented…with a
faculty universally male.”
In 1926, Alice O’Kane (later
Alice O’Shane) was the first woman
to receive a graduate degree, in the
very first year of the law school’s
new graduate program. In fact, she
received a JUD degree—the first and
one of the few doctorate degrees
ever awarded, the normal graduate
degree being an LLM. At least four
other women would subsequently
achieve graduate degrees in the short
life of that program, including Edith S.
Sampson, the first African American
woman, in 1927.
In 1936, Evelyn McIntyre,
together with her partner Ulysses
Keys (an African American man), won
the law school’s intramural moot
court competition, the Brandeis
Competition. Another woman, Eva
Charles, was on Loyola’s winning
intraschool team in 1939; her partner
was William L. Lamey, who would
later serve as the law school’s dean
from 1967 to 1970.
African American women began
to receive their first law degrees
during this time.
Clarice Hatcher received her LLB
in 1938. The first Hispanic and Asian
American women would not graduate
until several decades later.
of Governors of the Illinois Club for
Catholic Women; she was also singled
out for mention in the 1924 yearbook
(while still a student) as a candidate
for congressman-at-large (a race
that she lost). A former teacher, she
became principal of a Chicago school
while also practicing law. She stayed
active in the sorority, later becoming
its national grand dean.
Women had struggled for a long
time to become lawyers in Illinois. In
1869 Myra Bradwell passed the Illinois
bar examination but was denied
admission to the bar because she
was married and, at a later hearing,
simply because she was a woman.
(The Illinois Supreme Court, on its
own motion, admitted her to practice
in 1890, four years before her death.)
Within a year of their arrival, the
women had organized a chapter
of Kappa Beta Pi, a national legal
sorority founded in 1908 at Chicago-
Kent College of Law. By 1923, around
the time the women at Loyola were
organizing their chapter, Kappa
Beta Pi had 23 chapters around the
country. Interestingly, the
headlined a brief story about
the chapter’s installation as “Legal
Fraternity to Be Installed at Loyola”—
perhaps an indication that the idea of
women in law was still novel.
Hursen, the dean of the chapter,
was quite prominent. By the time
she graduated from Loyola, she
was president of the Cook County
Professional and Business Women’s
League and a member of the Board
September of that year, however,
with the appointment of Frederic
Siedenburg, S.J., as regent (the
voice of the University administration
in its various schools) for the law
school, all that changed. Siedenburg
led the law school to open its doors
to a wide diversity of applicants—
not only women but also African
Americans (as described in “Paving
the Way for African American
Students” in the Spring 2015 issue
Loyola Law)
and others.
Some of these women
had already earned at least an
undergraduate degree; Gilmore had
not only graduated from Chicago
Normal College but also earned both
BS and MA degrees from Loyola. She
would go on to earn an LLM degree
at Loyola in 1929. When she passed
away in 1936, the University’s alumni
magazine memorialized her as “a
pioneer woman law student and one
of the most enthusiastic and loyal
alumnae of the School of Law.”
These women had apparently
started at the law school in fall
1923. The 1925 University yearbook
states that students in the all-male
class that began in fall 1922 were
joined “starting their sophomore
year … [by] coeds. The effect of the
coeducational change was clearly
shown on the students and, may we
add, on the professors.” It’s not clear
from the available records how the
school publicized its new openness to
women, but word obviously got out
and elicited numerous responses.
Spurring changes
The enrollment of women
posed some problems for the law
school. According to the 1924
yearbook, it needed additional space
in the Ashland Block in the Loop,
where it had been housed since it
first opened its doors, to accommo-
date the new situation; among the
facilities acquired that year was “a
ladies’ rest room.”
Loyola’s first five women
graduates were not alone at the
school for much of their stay there, for
three more women received their law
degrees the following year: Marion
Grace Bremner, Evangeline Hursen,
and Clara Walsh Morris.
The first women law students at Loyola organized a chapter of the
Kappa Beta Pi national sorority in 1923.
Alice Mary O’Kane (JD ’25)
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