13 Pioneering Women in American Law: Charlotte E. Ray
Charlotte E. Ray
Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Charlotte Ray became the first African-American woman lawyer in 1872 after she applied for the District of Columbia bar under the name “C. E. Ray” and was accepted (presumably under the assumption that she was male, although this is debated.) Charlotte had graduated from Howard University earlier that year, and was one of the first woman to graduate from a university law school, rather than reading the law or serving an apprenticeship.
Details of Charlotte’s practice of law are sketchy, although an example of her writing still exists from Gadley v. Gadley, a domestic abuse case which appeared before the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia in 1875. She advertised her services for corporate law in Frederick Douglass’ weekly newspaper, The New National Era and Citizen. However, her practice did not prosper, and by 1879 she was a teacher in Brooklyn. She died in 1899 or 1900.