JULY 16, 1849- SEPTEMBER 2, 1934
Clara Shortridge Foltz was born in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1849. She was a lawyer and women’s rights activist. She married when she was just 15 years old and had I've children before moving to California, where she was deserted by her husband. To support her family, Foltz became a public speaker for woman suffrage. Foltz wanted to become a lawyer, but California law allowed only white males to practice law. In 1878, Foltz wrote the Woman Lawyer’s Bill and successfully convinced the California state legislature to pass it. That September, she became the first woman to pass the bar exam in California. She then successfully sued a law school for denying her admission because she was a woman. She did not attend, however, because by that time she was already self-trained and practicing law. Foltz also pioneered the idea of the public defender—that government should provide a defense lawyer for a person accused of a crime who could not afford one. In 1921, California passed the Foltz Defender Bill, guaranteeing public defenders for its citizens.
Foltz was a member of the California state women’s suffrage campaign, which secured women the vote in 1911. After decades of holding various legal and governmental jobs, she ran for Governor of California in 1930 to raise awareness of women’s rights. Foltz died in 1934 at age 85.
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