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Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #19: Carrie Burnham Kilgore

Philadelphia Women’s History Month All-Stars

All-Star #19: Carrie Burnham Kilgore

Scientists. Activists. Lawyers. Artists. The first computer programmers.

The history books may have neglected some of the incredible Philly women who changed the world over the last 200-plus years—but we have not.

While it shouldn’t take a national observance to put women on our radar, this is one holiday we’re happy to play along with: Every weekday during Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting a local woman whose legacy deserves celebrating—and who continues to inspire us.

Find the full list below—and also check out the incredible women we included in our Black History Month All-Stars roundup—like Marian Anderson, Sadie Alexander and Caroline Still Anderson.

19

Carrie Burnham Kilgore

Lawyer / Activist

Carrie Burnham Kilgore

Lawyer / Activist

1838-1909

Carrie Burnham Kilgore was the first female lawyer in the city of Philadelphia, and first woman admitted to the bar in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Kilgore’s road to achieving that status was a long one: Penn’s law school rejected her application in 1871, and despite having her husband buy passes for her to attend lectures, the Board of Trustees ultimately told her that even if she attended every course and passed all tests, they would not guarantee her a diploma.

Still, she studied privately. When she requested the opportunity to take the bar exam in 1873 and 1874, she was denied. After a decade of lobbying, however, Kilgore was the first woman admitted to Penn’s law school, in 1881.

An advocate of women’s suffrage and member of the Citizens’ Suffrage Association, she was denied the opportunity to vote, and her appeals to the state supreme court were denied as well.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • First woman admitted to Penn’s Law School
  • First woman admitted to the bar in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • First woman lawyer in Philadelphia.
  • Published a pamphlet called Woman Suffrage. The Argument of Carrie S. Burnham
  • A residence hall at Penn is named for Burnham


FINAL WORDS:

Recognized as one of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Legends of the Bar, Penn Law School now describes her by saying: “Carrie Burnham Kilgore fought tenaciously to earn her place as a law student and practicing lawyer in Philadelphia, and her talent, ambition, and passion for the profession paved the way for future generations of Penn Law women.”


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Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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