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Looking back on one of Chicago's first female lawyers

Written by
Adam Selzer

Kate Kane was the second woman to be accepted to the bar in Wisconsin, and then the 13th in Illinois, and she's largely forgotten now. But as perhaps the only female lawyer in practice in Chicago for much of her career, she was famous in her day for defending the high profile “trunk murderers” in 1885. Early in her career, she made national news when, tiring of a judge’s sexist comments, she threw water in his face.

Outbursts like this would become something of a trademark of Kane's. She was frequently written up in the press, both locally and nationally, and a great many of the article s were about her hitting people with parasols, her shoes and, in some cases, with her fists. When she took her daughter to work (as she often did) and someone stepped on the young girl’s foot, Kate took it as an intentional assault and clobbered the guy.

Some of her comments recorded in the press over the years aren’t exactly 21st century-friendly (to put it mildly), but it’s possible to be a pioneer and still be a product of your time (or even to be a pioneer and sort of a jerk). Either way, Kane deserves to be remembered for the trails that she blazed in Chicago.

You can read more on Kane at the Mysterious Chicago blog.

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