“No woman is capable of being a judge,” the Governor of Arizona told a group of women in the mid-1940s when they asked him to appoint Lorna Lockwood to a vacancy on the Superior Court. Rather than argue with the governor, Lorna, who had faced that kind of prejudice all of her life, ran for the court in the next election and won. Ten years later, in 1960, she ran for a position on the State Supreme Court and won again. And in 1965 she became the first woman chief justice on any state supreme court in America.
Although Lorna maintained throughout her career that “most men make no distinction between professional men and women,” she admitted upon her retirement that, “I had to work twice as hard to be considered for those posts because I was a woman.”
Born in 1903 on the southern border of the Arizona Territory in the mining town of Douglas when it was under the protection of the Arizona Rangers, Lorna Lockwood’s childhood reality was the Old West we know today only in the movies: shoot-outs over gambling debts in saloons and dance halls, and violence from the Mexican Revolution spilling across the border. In 1913, when Lorna’s attorney father left his law practice in Douglas to become the Superior Court Judge, the family moved to the county seat of Tombstone. She always loved to visit her father’s law office; she loved even more visiting the Cochise County Courthouse to watch Judge Lockwood preside over trials. She thought the law was the most important work anyone could do.
At the age of ten Lorna decided to grow up to be a lawyer and judge like her father. It would not be easy. Despite graduating near the top of her class, the dean told Lorna “law school was no place for a woman.” Lorna was forced to present her case again and again before her eventual admission into the college of law. Again, though she graduated near the top of her class and was quickly admitted to the Arizona Bar, no law firm would hire a female attorney. Fourteen years would pass before she would practice law.
But Lorna Lockwood’s time would come, and she would make an impact on the legal system unlike any attorney before—or since. From Tombstone to a White House “short list” for the U.S. Supreme Court, “Lady Law” tells the amazing story of one of America’s most famous and influential lawyers—and women—who helped shape the direction of our nation.
Sonja White David is a graduate of Arizona State University and the writer’s workshop at Bennington College. She has previously been published in the Denver Post, Denver Magazine, and Bloomsbury Review. She has been interested in Justice Lockwood since first seeing her name on the election ballot in the Chandler High School Gym while waiting for her parents to vote. “Lady Law” is her first book.
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