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Women at Columbia Law School

22 Portraits of Women at Columbia Law School

Thousands of women have earned degrees from Columbia Law School since Margaret Spahr '29, the first woman graduate, received her diploma 73 years ago. The editors of the Report have chosen 22 alumnae whose careers reflect the Law School's tradition of excellence. They went on to careers at law firms, in government and for public interest organizations, as judges and professors, and in roles outside traditional legal practice, such as museum presidents and entrepreneurs. As Judith Vladeck '47 said to an interviewer from the Women's Oral History Project: "I say the study of law, if you're in a good school and it resembles in any way my experience, is invaluable. I don't think you can find it elsewhere."

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Rising Stars: Alumnae Whose Successful Careers Bear Further Watching


In past decades, Columbia Law School has drawn talented women from around the world to follow in the footsteps of earlier alumnae. These women, who have all graduated within the past 20 years, are having early career successes that the pioneer alumnae could have only dreamed of decades ago. These up-and-coming women are or have been state attorneys general, presidential advisors, key partners at law firms and financial houses where men have traditionally dominated, and high-level executives in burgeoning industries such as the Internet and cable TV. These are alumnae whose careers have been a pleasure to observe and whose future achievements bear watching.

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A Brief History of Women at Columbia Law School

The movement to get women accepted into Columbia Law School began as early as 1909.  One objection was that male students, fearing their education would be compromised, would leave Columbia for Harvard (which didn't admit women until 1950).  At one point, in 1915, a compromise was suggested: create a separate law school for women.  It wasn't until 1927 that obstacles were removed, and the first women -- three of them -- crossed the threshold of Kent Hall.  Since then, the Law School has graduated thousands of women who have gone on to become successful lawyers, judges, college presidents, and entrepreneurs.  The Law School library's head of special collections, Whitney Bagnall, reports on the 75 years that women have been admitted as students.

Click here to go to the article: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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