We’d like to start off March — Women’s History month — with an appreciation of Kate Stoneman, the first woman to practice law in New York.

Kate Stoneman, from a farming family in upstate New York , graduated New York Normal College and taught for forty years….

And Kate was an instrumental member in the Albany Woman’s Suffrage Society, which successfully petitioned New York State to allow women to not only vote school board elections but also to serve as school board officials.

New York’s “School Suffrage Law” –& btw.==all 50 State Session Laws available @ NYLI

Kate first became interested in law during her student days when she worked as a copyist for the state reporter of the Court of Appeals. She became more determined to study law after she was designated executrix of her great aunt’s estate….

In 1886, when Kate applied for admission to the New York State Bar, the courts denied her application commenting that although “well qualified for admissions”, “her sex was against her”.

And, so before she could practice law, Ms. Stoneman needed to change the law.

Assemblyman John I. Platt of Poughkeepsie introduced a bill that would remove gender qualifications from the NY Code of Civil Procedure. The bill had been stuck in the judiciary committee (and why does that sound familiar, lol!) .

Kate Stoneman and her fellow suffragettes once again petitioned the legislative to move the bill out of committee…. and convinced NY State Governor David B. Hill to sign it into law…

Historical version of state statutes available @ NYLI….

Kate decided to continue her legal education in a more formal way and was the first woman to graduate from Albany Law School. Stoneman served as Treasurer of the State Suffrage Association. In 1918 , she was a poll watcher in Albany and saw history firsthand as New York women voted for the first time.

Posthumously honored by Governor Mario Cuomo, who declared May 22, 1986 “Katherine Stoneman Day,” in recognition of the 100th anniversary of her acceptance to the bar. She was honored again in 2009, when she was inducted into the Seneca Falls National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Today, there is a Kate Stoneman Day and Albany Law School, complete with awards for women who have achieved in the legal profession.