If you ask most people about the history of women and the United States Supreme Court, they are likely to point to the historic nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female justice, in 1981. That is a watershed moment in our nation’s history. But in order to fully understand the relationship of women to the United States Supreme Court, we must reach back much further. This story begins, as all stories about American history inevitably do, during the colonial period.
After Belva Lockwood received her law degree, she found that the federal Court of Claims refused to allow her to plead cases. In 1876 Lockwood's petition to argue before the US Supreme Court was denied. In 1879, Lockwood successfully petitioned Congress to pass an act allowing women to practice before the US Supreme Court and in 1880, due to her efforts, became the first woman allowed to do so.