Portrait Gallery

Belva Ann Lockwood

American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies with over 1,400 portraits: a comprehensive encyclopedia of the lives and achievements of American women during the nineteenth century, by Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, 1820-1905 ed; and Frances Elizabeth Willard, 1839-1898 ed. (PDF)

LOCKWOOD, Mrs. Belva Ann, barrister-at-law, born in Royalton, Niagara county, N. Y., 24th October. 1830 Her parents' name was Bennett. They were farmers in moderate circumstances. Belva was educated at first in the district school and later in the academy of her native town. At fourteen years of age she taught the district school in summer and attended school in winter, continuing that occupation until eighteen years of age, when she became the wife of a young farmer in the neighborhood, Uriah H. McNall, who died in April, 1853, leaving one daughter, now Mrs. Lura M. Ormes, Mrs. Lockwood's principal assistant in her law office. As Belva A. McNall she entered Genesee College, in Lima, N. Y., in 1853, and was graduated therefrom with honor, taking her degree of A B. on 27th June, 1857. She was immediately elected preceptress of Lockport union school, incorporated as an academy, and containing six-hundred male and female students. She assisted in the preparation of a three-year course of study and introduced declamation and gymnastics, for the young ladies, conducting the classes herself. She was also professor of the higher mathematics, logic, rhetoric and botany. She continued filling that position with efficiency and success for four years, when she resigned to become preceptress of the Gainesville Female Seminary, and later she became the proprietor of McNall Seminary, in Oswego, N. Y. At the close of the Civil War Mrs. McNall removed to Washington, D. C., and for seven years had charge of Union League Hall, teaching for a time, and meanwhile taking up the study of law. On the 11th of March, 1868, she became the wife of Rev. Ezekiel Lockwood, a Baptist minister, who during the war was chaplain of the Second D. C. Regiment. Dr. Lockwood died in Washington, D. C., 23rd April, 1877. Jessie B. Lockwood, the only child of their union, had died before him. Mrs. Lockwood took her second degree of A. M. in Syracuse University, N. Y., with which Genesee College had previously been incorporated, in 1870, at the request of the faculty of that institution. In May, 1873, she was graduated from the National University Law School, Washington, D. C., and took her degree of D. C. L. After a spirited controversy about the admission of women to the bar, she was, on 23rd September, 1873, admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, the highest court in the District. She at once entered into the active practice of her profession, which she still continues after nineteen years of successful work. For about thirteen years of that time Mrs. Lockwood was in court every court­day and engaged in pleading cases in person before the court. In 1875 she applied for admission to the Court of Claims. Her admission was refused on the ground, first, that she was a woman, and, second, that she was a married woman. The contest was a bitter one, but sharp, short and decisive. In 1876 Mrs. Lockwood's admission to the bar of the United States Supreme Court was moved. That—motion was refused on the ground that there were no English precedents for the admission of women to the bar. It was in vain that she pleaded that Queens Eleanor and Elizabeth had both been Supreme Chancellors of the Realm, and that at the Assizes of Appleby, Ann, Countess of Pembroke, sat with the judges on the bench. Nothing daunted, she drafted a bill admitting women to the bar of the United States Supreme Court, secured its introduction into both Houses of Congress, and after three years of effort aroused influence and public sentiment enough to secure its passage in January, 1879. On the 3rd of March of that year, on the motion of Hon. A. G. Riddle, Mrs. Lockwood was admitted to the bar of that august tribunal, the first woman upon whom the honor was conferred. Of that court she remains a member in good standing. Nine other women have since been admitted under the act to this, the highest court in the United States. After the passage of the act, Mrs. Lockwood was notified that she could then be admitted to the Court of Claims, and she was so admitted on motion of Hon. Thomas J. Durant, 6th March, 1879, and has before that court a very active practice. There is now no Federal Court in the United States before which she may not plead. From the date of her first admission to the bar she has had a large and paying practice, but for the last four years she has confined her energies more especially to claims against the government. She often makes an argument for the passage of a bill before the committee of the Senate and House of the United States Congress. In 1870 she secured the passage of a bill, by the aid of Hon. S. M. Arnell, of Tennessee, and other friends, giving to the women employees of the government, of whom there are many thousands, equal pay for equal work with men. At another time she secured the passage of a bill appropriating $50,000 for the payment of bounties to sailors and mariners, heretofore a neglected class. During Garfield's administration, in 1881, Mrs. Lockwood made application for appointment as Minister to Brazil. The negotiations were terminated by the unfortunate death of the President, to whom voluminous petitions had been presented by her friends. In the summer of 1884 Mrs. Lockwood was nominated for the Presidency by the Equal Rights party in San Francisco, Cal., and in 1888 was renominated by the same party in Des Moines, Iowa, and in both cases made a canvass that awakened the people of the United States to the consideration of the right of suffrage for women. The popularity given to her by these bold movements has called her very largely to the lecture platform and into newspaper correspondence during the last six years. Mrs. Lockwood is interested not only in equal rights for men and women, but in temperance and labor reforms, the control of railroads and telegraphs by the government, and in the settlement of all difficulties, national and international, by arbitration instead of war. In the summer of 1889, in company with Rev. Amanda Deyo, Mrs. Lockwood represented the Universal Peace Union in the Paris Exposition and was their delegate to the International Congress of Peace in that city, which opened its sessions in the Salle of the Trocadero, under the patronage of the French government. She made one of the opening speeches and later presented a paper in the French language on inter­national arbitration, which was well received. In the summer of 1890 she again represented the Universal Peace Union in the International Congress in London, in Westminster Town Hall, in which she presented a paper on “Disarmament.” Before returning to the United States, Mrs. Lockwood took A course of university extension lectures in the University of Oxford. She was elected for the third time to represent the Universal Peace Union, of which she is corresponding secretary, in the International Congress of Peace held in November, 1891, in Rome. Her subject in that gathering was “The Establishment of an International Bureau of Peace.” Mrs. Lockwood is assistant editor of the “Peacemaker,” a monthly magazine published in Philadelphia, and is the general delegate of the Woman's National Press Association. She is also chairman of the committee for the International Federation of Women's Press Clubs. Mrs. Lockwood has always been a student and is deeply interested in the rapidly-growing sentiment for university extension in this country.

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