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Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge- the First Female Admitted to the Kentucky Bar

Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on April 1, 1866. At fourteen, she attended the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College (now known as the University of Kentucky), which opened to women in 1880. In 1888, Sophonisba graduated from Wellesley College and started studying the legal system in her father’s law office. In 1895, she became the first woman admitted to the Kentucky Bar. Due to a lack of work in Kentucky, because not many people would hire a female attorney, she became a secretary to Marion Talbot, the Dean of Women at the University of Chicago. Sophonisba later enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, receiving a Ph.M. in 1897 and a Ph.D. in political science and economics in 1901. In 1902, she was Assistant Dean of Women of the University. 1904, she became the first woman to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School. She also became the first woman to be admitted to the Order of the Coif, an honor society for law school graduates. In 1909, Sophonisba became an assistant professor of social economy and in 1920 earned tenure as associate professor at the University of Chicago. From 1923 to 1929, she was the College of Arts for Literature and Science Dean. 1925, Sophonisba earned full professorship and served as the Dean of Professional Social Service Students in 1929. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt selected her as a delegate for the 7th Pan-American Conference in Uruguay, making her the first woman to represent the U.S. government at an international conference. After retiring from the University of Chicago, she continued teaching public welfare courses until 1942. On July 30, 1948, Sophonisba Breckinridge passed away at 82. While she is known for breaking the stigma of becoming the first woman in critical roles, she is also an author, activist, and member of many organizations.