Coast Guard Lawyer, Women's Bar Pioneer Dies at Age 98

A Chicago woman who wanted to join the military effort during World War II, but couldn’t because of her gender and became a lawyer for the Coast Guard instead, has died at the age of 98.

Etha “Bea” Fox was denied military service because women were barred from combat at the time, the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.) reports in a news obituary.

The paper notes that throughout her career, Fox pushed the boundaries of women’s rights and helped establish the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois.

Fox died in her home of pneumonia on Sept. 8.

A Chicago native, Fox earned her law degree from Chicago-Kent in 1939, according to a memoriam posted on the Chicago-Kent website.

Fox joined the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve in 1944, retiring with the rank of captain in 1974. She went on to work for the Chicago Office of Rent Stabilization, then served for 17 years as a law clerk to 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Win G. Knoch.

“She was celebrated as a tireless advocate of women in the legal profession,” the Kent memoriam notes. Citing an oral history for the ABA, the memoriam quotes 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner as saying Fox was someone “who should have been a federal judge, who was a career clerk to two federal judges, who mentored and aided and helped us.”

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