Arts & Events

Press Release: Clara Foltz, California’s First Woman Lawyer
Lecture by Prof. Barbara Babcock

From Linda Rosen, Berkeley Historical Society
Friday February 03, 2012 - 10:39:00 AM

On Sunday, February 5, at 2 pm, at the Berkeley History Center, 1931 Center Street, Barbara Babcock, Stanford Law Professor Emerita, will discuss Clara Foltz, the ground-breaking woman lawyer and subject of her biography, Woman Lawyer: The Trials of Clara Foltz. Deserted by her husband and needing to support her five children, Clara Shortridge Foltz became a path breaker. With the help of her fellow woman suffragists, she fought her way into the California Bar in 1878 and became the first woman to practice law in the state. She introduced the idea that indigent criminal defendants should have state provided lawyers and that convicted criminals should have the possibility of parole. She became the first female deputy district attorney in the United States. 

Foltz worked for women’s rights throughout her career, wrote the suffrage initiative, and was among the few pioneers who lived to cast a legal ballot in California in 1912. Though the suffrage achievement is generally thought to be a result of the progressive movement, Foltz’s life reveals that the foundation was laid much earlier. 

After the talk, attendees may tour the current exhibit, “Berkeley Women Vote: Celebrating California Suffrage 1911-2011.” Admission free; wheelchair accessible. Info: and

Berkeley Women Vote Centennial Committee, the Berkeley Historical Society, the League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville, the American Association of University Women, and the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, which make up Centennial Committee, are non-profit organizations. 

Berkeley Historical Society 

Veterans Memorial Building 

1931 Center Street, Berkeley 

Telephone (510) 848-0181 

Wheelchair Accessible