Ellen Hoar and Lena Giudici
First, I want to thank the Courthouse Project for sponsoring this talk. I
would like, in particular, to thank Nancy Boone, the Courthouse Project
Coordinator, for her assistance in digging up information about these two
interesting women. And I also wish to thank Patricia Baril – a
freelance writer who has done extensive work on the story of Ellen Hoar.
How many of you have daughters or- perhaps interns or young female
lawyers in your offices that really don’t understand what all of the
fuss is about women’s rights? We see how they take for granted the
hard won equality women now have. Of course, it makes sense that it would be
hard to appreciate . . . Just think – I entered law school in 1983
– at that time 49% of the class were women!
But lets think back for a moment to those that paved the way for us. Two
Washington County women were trailblazers. Both from Barre: Ellen Hoar was
the second woman to be admitted to practice in Vermont (in 1914), and Lena
Giudici (Judeesee) was the third (admitted in 1921).
Lets begin by setting the stage.
In 1915, World War I was raging in Europe (we joined in 1917). Remember
also that in 1912 Woodrow Wilson was elected, in part, on the pledge of
keeping us out of the war and of institutionalizing segregation. In 1914 the
progressive movement was underway in Vermont (meaning the progressive wing
of the Republican party – it was only Republican here). This involved
a move toward a direct primary, the first direct election of senators, the
first workers rights bills such as child labor laws and workers
compensation. A feeling of great possibility abounded. There was more
economic fluidity in our society during that time than had been during the
previous 50 or so years. Some of Vermont’s famous strikes occurred
around this time. In contrast with the reform movement there was a marked
hostility to foreigners and immigrants. And on the left fringe the
anarchists and socialists were very active in Barre. This was also the
height of the temperance movement – this movement effected popular
views on women’s suffrage rights.
The suffrage movement also was in its height. Indeed, the 19th
amendment was passed in 1920 – but before this, in Vermont in 1880
property owning women (widows) were given the right to vote in municipal
elections (no taxation without representation) and in 1917 the right to vote
in municipal elections was extended to all women (although very few
participated.) In 1919 Governor Clement refused to sign a bill granting
women the right to vote in presidential elections and blocked efforts to
hold a convention to ratify the 19th amendment. The first woman
elected to the legislature was Edna Beard in 1920.
(The first woman to be admitted to the Vermont Bar was Jessie Bigwood
1902 – Winooski)
Now a little bit about Ellen Hoar. Ellen was born in 1887, the child of a
prominent Barre attorney, Richard Hoar. Her family encouraged Ellen to
pursue a career in law – in fact, her father, Richard Hoar recognized
her intellectual talents when she was a young child, and began to encourage
her to pursue his profession in her early childhood years. So, after
graduating from Spaulding in 1909 she entered the University of Maine Law
School. (Incidentally she was also a great athlete – while at
Spaulding she led its women’s basketball team in its championship
victory. (Basketball first being initiated as a sport in 1292 and she was
also a great musician and amateur Thespian – She was an accomplished
pianist and performed in amateur theater through her lifetime.)
At Law School Ellen excelled – she was only woman member of the
Editorial Board. She also began to develop a strong commitment to the
pursuit of women’s rights – beginning with the right to vote. At
law school, Ellen formed a deep friendship with Carrie Chapman Catt –
one of history’s most remarkable women, whose dedication to
women’s suffrage was second only to Susan B. Anthony. During her time
in Maine, Ellen helped Carrie in her efforts to promote women’s rights
– passing out leaflets in the halls of the Maine legislature. The
title of Ellen’s Thesis (submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of bachelor of laws) was "The Securing to
Women Her Rights as an Individual and as a Citizen."
There is not as much information about Lena Giudici – the third
woman admitted to practice. Lena was born in 1989. Like Ellen, she was born
and raised in Barre. She graduated from Spaulding High School in 1917 and in
1920, she earned a law degree from the Boston University School of Law. She
was the first woman to be admitted to the Bar in Massachusetts. In 1921 she
returned to Barre and was admitted to practice in Vermont. Ms. Giudici
practiced law infrequently – mostly she did accounting for area
granite firms, including her family’s firm, the Giudici Brothers.
Although no one has found evidence that Lena actively practiced law, she
remained a member of the bar, and was listed in the lawyer column of the
Barre City directory until 1975. She died just a few years ago – in
1995, having lived out the end of her life in a Barre nursing home.
Like Ms. Hoar, Lena Guidici was an active supporter of other women
– in 1926 when the Vermont Chapter of the Business and Professional
Women’s Club was started, she was elected its first recording
secretary, and later became the state first vice-president.
The lives of both of these remarkable women illustrate the challenge of
being women lawyers at a time when women were still tied to hearth and home.
As women before their times, both Lena and Hoar relied heavily on the
support of their families. Both of them were kept out of active practice of
law, perhaps because the community was not ready to use female lawyers.
Neither woman ever married or had children. Yet these women, each in their
own way, made a mark on their communities and paved the way for those of us
who have followed their path.