Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 17

w w w.BERKSBAR.org

	

"All of us here today are enriched by the fact that Anna Dickinson
did what she did, and did it where she did, in Berks County."

T

- The Honorable Elizabeth Ehrlich, speaking at Anna Dickinson's memorial service on March 29, 1982,
less than two years before being the first woman elected to Berks County bench.

he Reading Times captured the moment a 21-year-old
Anna Dickinson made history on September 12, 1922
with this headline: "Woman Lawyer On Berks Bar."

Dickinson, who the Times referenced as Miss Dickinson
throughout the article, holds the "unique distinction of not only
being the first woman ever admitted to the local bar, but also
the youngest lawyer of either sex that ever had attained that
eminence."
The newspaper account described how "Miss Dickinson," a
1918 graduate of the Reading Girls High School, had studied for
two years at the Dickinson Law School in Carlisle and noted that
her father, attorney Joseph R. Dickinson, also had studied there.
At the time, there was no requirement for a college degree in order
to be admitted to law school. The article related that after the two
years of law school in Carlisle, Dickinson went on to an additional
six months of study at Temple University. She sat for the bar exam
in June of 1922 and passed "with flying colors."
The article also reported that "a round of congratulatory
handshakes by other members of the bar" present in the courtroom
followed the formal proceedings and described how Dickinson
received "four gorgeous baskets of flowers from her friends and
admirers." It was a big day for "Miss Dickinson."
Dickinson's admission to the bar earned front page coverage in
the September 11 edition of the Reading Eagle. Though generally
similar to the Times story, the Eagle account contained a less than
subtle gender bias in several places, beginning with the headline,
"Girl Sworn In As Lawyer," which reference to Dickinson as a
"girl" presumably had nothing to do with her age as the Eagle
account did not even mention her being the youngest person ever
to be admitted to the bar.
Like the Times, the Eagle referred to the various baskets of
flowers Dickinson received - and that she was "showered with
congratulations." However, the article went on to describe
her bobbed hairstyle, noted that she went hatless in her court
appearance, and that she was "modestly though smartly attired."
A quick survey of several newspaper stories relating to other
Berks bar admissions around that time revealed no mention of

floral baskets, hairstyles or attire of the candidate for admission.
The Eagle disclosed that Dickinson's first case was that she had
been appointed to serve as a master in the divorce proceedings of
Clarence H. Mosser versus Helen C. Mosser.
Both articles referred to Dickinson's father, Joseph R., also
an attorney. Identified in his 1937 obit as "a leading figure of the
Berks county bar for many years," Joseph Dickinson was active
politically, prominent in a number of community organizations,
and was involved in a number of high profile legal matters over the
course of his career.
Neither article mentions Eva Moyer Dickinson, who gave
birth on January 13, 1901 to Anna Dickinson, then five years
later to Joseph Dickinson, Jr., Anna's younger brother. That Joseph
and (presumably) Eva Dickinson had generally high aspirations
for Anna was apparent, as they named her for the abolitionist
Anna Dickinson, who at the age of 22 addressed both houses
of Congress with President Lincoln and his entire cabinet in
attendance. Lofty career goals for the infant were immediately
established when, according to Dickinson family legend, upon
seeing his newly born daughter, Joseph exclaimed, "Eva, you
are holding in your arms a future lawyer. I believe that she has
every chance of being the first of her sex to practice law in Berks
County."
A studious Anna Dickinson looks over a pair of glasses with
a bit of a smile from her picture in the 1918 Reading Girls High
School yearbook, where she is described as "our little Anna who
seems quiet - but in reality is the funniest of girls." A playfully
cryptic reference to trips that "little Anna" made to Leesport and
that authorities there "once threatened to put her out," is followed
by evidence of her dedication to becoming an attorney, as the
section concludes by wishing her success "when you have attained
the position of Lawyer Anna Dickinson."
Pausing briefly to put Dickinson's admission to the Berks
bar into historical perspective, it occurred 53 years after Arabella
Mansfield became the first woman admitted to practice law in the
United States. Mansfield was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1869.
Dickinson's admission also came 37 years after Caroline "Carrie"

continued on next page
Spring 2020 | 17


http://www.berksbar.org

Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020

Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 1
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 2
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 3
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 4
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 5
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 6
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 7
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 8
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 9
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 10
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 11
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 12
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 13
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 14
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 15
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 16
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 17
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 18
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 19
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 20
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 21
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 22
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 23
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 24
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 25
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 26
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 27
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 28
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 29
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 30
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 31
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 32
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 33
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 34
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 35
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 36
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 37
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 38
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 39
Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Spring 2020 - 40
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksBarrister/BerksBarrister_Springr2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksBarrister/BerksBarrister_Fall-Winter2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksBarrister/Berksbarrister_Summer2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksBarrister/BerksBarrister_Springr2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksBarrister/Berksbarrister_Winter2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksBarrister/Berksbarrister_Summer2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksBarrister/berksbarrister_winter2017
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com