October 24 ~ Glory of Each Generation American Women's History: Student Companion

"The glory of each generation is to make its own precedents." ~ Belva Lockwood

Belva Lockwood

Dedicating her life to creating precedents, passionate lawyer and suffragist Belva Lockwood (18301917) was born Belva Ann Burnett on this day on a farm in Royalton, New York.

The outspoken advocate once said, "I do not believe in sex distinction in literature, law, politics, or trade... Or that modesty and virtue are more becoming to women than to men, but wish we had more of it everywhere."

A widow at age 24, she became a teacher, then attended law school and was denied her diploma because she was a woman. In a famous 1873 letter to then-President Ulysses S. Grant, she wrote: "I have been passed through the curriculum of study of that school, and am entitled to, and demand my Diploma."

When awarded her diploma, her law practice won historic cases for women and other minorities, including a $5 million settlement for the Cherokee Indian tribe.

After a three-year battle that included lobbying Congress for support, in 1879 Lockwood became the first woman to practice law before the Supreme Court. She said: "I know we can't abolish prejudice through laws, but we can set up guidelines for our actions by legislation."

A leader in the woman suffrage movement, in 1884 and 1888, she ran for the U. S. Presidency, believing that as an Equal Rights Party candidate she could help women gain the right to vote.

She explained, "Men always say, 'Let's see what you can do.' If we always talk and never work we will not accomplish anything."

A renowned lecturer, she also worked for world peace, attending international conferences and advocating arbitration rather than war to resolve disputes. "No one can claim to be called Christian who gives money for the building of warships and arsenals," she said.

Make your own precedents.