In 1987, Congress passed a law designating March as Women’s History Month. In his proclamation, President Reagan called upon “all Americans to mark this month with appropriate observances to honor the achievements of American women.” This month, the Harris County Law Library celebrates the achievements of a pioneering Houston attorney, Camille Elizabeth Stanford Openshaw, who overcame bias in the male-dominated legal field of the early 20th century to obtain her law degree and make significant contributions in her legal career.
Camille E.S. Openshaw is the subject of both a physical exhibit and digital exhibit at the Harris County Law Library. In our digital exhibit, you can find Openshaw's yearbook photo from South Texas School of Law, where she was the second woman to graduate with a law degree, and her 1935 notoriety as she represented a member of the Bonnie & Clyde gang. As Openshaw persisted to pursue her legal career in a strongly biased era, she demonstrated a strong spirit worth celebrating.
Today, women continue to make enormous strides in the law in both legal practice and academia. After 130 years, the prestigious Harvard Law Review elected for the first time a black woman, ImeIme Umana, as president , and Yale Law School just named a new dean, Heather Gerken, the first woman to ever hold the position. In a recent Bloomberg Law interview, Ms. Gerken comments on the personal significance of her position, pointing to her role as the mother of a 14-year old daughter while outlining her vision for the future of the institution she now helms. Continued inclusion and promotion of women in the legal profession and increasing overall diversity will remain perennially important topics as the significant contributions of women like Openshaw, Umana, and Gerken continue to receive deserved recognition. Here are a few sources to help you learn about the topic and keep tabs on new developments: