Women in Law History

March is Women’s History Month! 

GLS is 75% female, which is standard in the nonprofit industry with national averages around 73%. In the legal field, however, women make up only 38% of employees and 22% of partners in private practices, even though law school grads tend to be 50% female. Male lawyers earn more than female lawyers. White women are represented at higher rates than women of color.

Clearly, we still have a long way to go.

In light of this, GLS is celebrating Women’s History Month by taking a look at the women in law who have inspired us, broken barriers, and created opportunities for others to advance in the legal field.


Charlotte E. Ray

1872: First African American female to earn a law degree in the U.S.

Ada Kepley

1881: First female to graduate with a law degree and practice in a court of law in the U.S.

Lyda Conley

1909: First Native American female lawyer in the U.S. and to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court

Kuma Elizabeth Ohi

1937: First Asian American female lawyer in the U.S.

Jewel Lafontant

First African American female lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court (1963) and the first female deputy solicitor general of the United States (1973).

Lafontant received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1983.

Vilma Socorro Martínez

First Latina American lawyer to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court (1977).

Martínez is civil rights activist and diplomat who formerly served as the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina (2009-2013).

Phyllis Frye

First openly transgender female judge in the U.S. (2010).

On April 28, 2013, Frye was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Transgender Foundation of America.

Maite Oronoz Rodríguez

First openly LGBT female justice appointed as a Chief Justice in the U.S. (2016).

During her swearing in, Oronoz Rodríguez firmly declared that her "commitment will always be with those who demand justice, regardless of race, color, gender, nationality, social origin or condition, sexual orientation or identity, or political or religious ideals."

GLS Law Leaders