The Congress of Women: Professions and Occupations Open to Women

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Professions and Occupations Open to Women

It naturally follows that the professions should be entered by women. Apparently the medical profession was the first sought by her. Sixty years ago the first woman medical student began her course of study, and now countless thousands of women practitioners of the healing art are scattered over the world, pursuing their profession with most signal success. In the East Indian zenanas, the homes of the helpless foot-bound Chinese, as in the homes and hospitals of Europe and America, they are doing a work that no man could possibly accomplish.

The profession of theology has attracted fewer women, and it has been less easy for them to obtain recognition as pastors and preachers, but the theological schools of Switzerland, and some of those in the United States, notably those of the Unitarian and Methodist Episcopal churches, admit women as students. There are ordained women preachers in the Baptist, Congregational, Universalist, Unitarian, "Christian," Protestant, Methodist, and Primitive Methodist denominations, and over three hundred and fifty women preachers among the Society of Friends. There are perhaps seven hundred women preachers to-day in the United States.

The legal profession was the last of the three so-called learned professions to be opened to women; not because of reluctance on the part of the courts, but because women did not so early apply for admission. Although isolated instances may be cited from the Roman Calphurnia to our own time of women who have pleaded causes in court, it was not till 1869 that a woman was formally admitted as an attorney and counselor at law. To the United States belongs this honor. Mrs. Arabella A. Mansfield was admitted without objection to the bar of the Supreme Court of Iowa in that year (1869). About the same time women students were received into the law schools of Washington University, St. Louis, and the Union College of Law at Chicago. There are now not less than eleven law schools in the United States open to women. Twenty-five States and Territories admit women to the bar. As to the rest we cannot safely say that they exclude women, for as a matter of fact no woman has as yet applied, except in Virginia, which has for three years steadfastly refused to grant admission to a lady lawyer. There are probably over two hundred women lawyers in the United States to-day, nine of whom are admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.

The universities of Paris, Brussels and Zurich have within five or six years graduated women from their law departments. The three graduates at Paris have not applied for admission to the bar. At Zurich Dr. Emilie Kempin, although denied admission to the bar, is a lecturer upon law in the university. Dr. Marie Popelin, a graduate in law at Brussels, has been formally denied admission to the bar. Italy, Russia and Denmark have also refused the petition of women for admission as advocates at the bar. India, Japan and the Hawaiian Islands recognize the woman lawyer. The Royal University of Ireland has recently conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws upon a woman; and in Canada, in the Province of Ontario, women have very recently been made eligible to admission to the study of the law. In England, no attempt to gain admission to the bar has yet been made. Several ladies, practicing as attorneys and solicitors, are patiently waiting for a change in public sentiment before asking for admission to plead as barristers.

Every known profession, occupation and trade seems now to be open to woman in some part of the civilized world. She can be a minister, doctor, lawyer, professor, lecturer, journalist, mechanic, architect, sculptor, painter, merchant, day-laborer. In fact, whatever she chooses to undertake she is permitted to do, if not in one country then elsewhere. In view of this entire revolution in her social status, should she not logically possess the same civil and legal rights, and be subject to the same civil and legal liabilities as a man in the same position.

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