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Welcome to The Activism of Myra Bradwell!
You may be asking yourself, who in the world is Myra Bradwell? Don’t worry, I asked myself the same question three years ago. Myra Bradwell (1831-1894) was the editor of the Chicago Legal News and gained fame with her United States Supreme Court case Bradwell v. Illinois (1873). Not only was this the second Supreme Court case that interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment, it also opened the floodgates to numerous women petitioning the courts for their own rights. In 1869, Bradwell became the first woman to pass the Illinois State Bar but was denied her law license because of “her married condition.” Under the Victorian common law called coverture, the legal identity of married women was “covered” by her husband. As a married woman, Bradwell could not sign a contract in her own name, let alone defend a client in the courtroom. When she petitioned to the United States Supreme Court that her right to employment was one of the privileges and immunities of an American citizen as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court responded that women did not enjoy the rights of their male peers.
A basic Google search of Myra Bradwell will stop right there. In fact, most academic journals and books that mention her do not expand much further. However, Myra Bradwell was so much more than her Supreme Court case. She owned her own business, the Chicago Legal News, and served as its editor - a major accomplishment for a woman at the time. She held high positions in the National Woman's Suffrage Association and advocated for reform legislation through her local, state, and national representatives. Myra Bradwell was an activist of all hats. The website is meant to shed more light on her many activist roles throughout her career. Viewers will find items ranging from court documents, newspaper articles, and club constitutions that demonstrate the activism of Myra Bradwell. Bradwell's own life will show that many women within the early Women’s Rights Movement cannot be just defined as a suffragette.
The site is broken into three collections meant to capture her different activist roles:
Each collection and its items depict the reform that Bradwell underwent for herself, other women, and fellow citizens throughout the country and her own backyard. These collections and their items may be viewed in any order as the site is meant to portray the multiple lenses of Myra Bradwell that occurred simultaneously in her life. This research is part of my larger MA thesis project, and if you enjoy what you discover, I invite you to check out my research blog as well (https://skfurrhistoryclassroom.wordpress.com/blog/).