Hastings Journal on Gender and the Law


Deborah H. King


Clara Shortridge Foltz has been described in many different ways. "Lady lawyer," "massive egotist" and "representative heroine" are just a few of the labels she has worn. This note attempts to find yet another label for Foltz by exploring her culture and the roles she chose to play within that culture. When Foltz is viewed in the context of her time it becomes apparent that her proper label lies somewhere between lady lawyer and feminist. She was a complex woman with varied responses to the Victorian notions that men and women occupied different spheres, which is referred to as separate sphere ideology. She openly rebelled against separate sphere ideology when she refused to be denied her right to be a lawyer or to attend Hastings College of the Law. When necessary she masked her rebellion by playing the role of "lady lawyer." At other times Foltz even embraced and accepted some of the tenets of separate sphere ideology. This is a more complex vision of Foltz than is currently accepted.