March Madness (3/15/2018)-Ada Kepley v. Marie Bottineau Baldwin

Today’s match up is between Ada Kepley and Marie Bottineau Baldwin. Ada Kepley was the first woman to obtain a law degree. Marie Bottineau Baldwin was the first Native-American to graduate from the Washington College of Law, and the first Native-American woman to work in the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Let us know which woman inspires you the most by participating in our daily Twitter or Facebook poll, or by casting a vote at the Circulation Desk.  Happy voting!

Ada Kepley-“It seems I was the first woman to graduate from a law school in the world, and in addition, America, which boasted to the rest of the world to be “the land of the free and home of the brave,” gave no freedom to her women…”

Image via Wikipedia

Ada Kepley was trained as her husband’s legal assistant, but wished to obtain her own law career. She graduated from Union College of Law (Northwestern) in 1870 but was denied access to the bar. Her husband then helped write and pass a bill to prevent sexual discrimination in any field in Illinois, including the legal field in 1872. Ada Kepley did not reapply for the bar until 1881, largely because she was focused into temperance reform. Ada left a lasting legacy promoting women’s rights in both the legal world and in the political world.


Marie Bottineau Baldwin-“I believe that when opportunity comes a person is never too old to take advantage of it. Anything that I have accomplished is due to the fact that I am an Indian, not in spite of it.”

Image via Wikipedia

Born in a teepee in North Dakota, Marie’s father was one of the first Justices of the Peace in Minneapolis. Her father believed that his children would be limited and hindered by being kept from the rest of society, so Marie and her siblings were sent to school. Not much else is known about her life but she was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 as treasurer of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, where she worked as an accountant. Marie did not attend a law school course until she was 49, when she attended the Washington College of Law and was its first Native American graduate. She finished the three year degree in less than two years and graduated with highest distinction. She was admitted to the bar in 1914 and began to work overseas in the Department of War because of her language and accounting skills. A scholarship in her name was started by the Washington College of Law student organization.

Disclaimer: This is a friendly competition that is meant to increase awareness about some amazing women. The match ups were determined by a random outcome generator, and the winner will be determined based solely on the votes submitted by the participants. We are in no way seeking to pit one woman against each other in any inappropriate way, because each woman is inspiring in her own right.


Author: Alyson Drake

Alyson Drake is the Assistant Director for Public Services and the Director of the Excellence in Legal Research Program at Texas Tech University Law School, where she also teaches courses in Texas Legal Research, and Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research and administers the Legal Practice Program's research workshops. She blogs at

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