March 25, 2019
Lorraine Wall Hurney was the first female to serve as general counsel staff for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington, D.C. When her husband, Thomas, died in 1935, Lorraine attended law school in an effort to find a career where she could better provide for her three children. She graduated in 1938 and passed the bar exam in 1940.
After her time in D.C., Lorraine was appointed as the first female district director of the Southeast region of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Philadelphia, PA. At the time, she held the highest-paid civil service position of any female in the U.S. In 1965, her career moved her once more—this time to Chicago—where her work as an immigration lawyer continued to garner her respect in the legal community. During her time there, she appeared twice in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today, Lorraine’s legacy lives on through her family members, many of whom practice law. Her grandson, Tom Hurney, is a prominent attorney in Charleston, WV and works for Jackson Kelly’s local office. Tom, a self-proclaimed “fan of women lawyers,” is married to Julia, a lawyer, and has two daughters, Grace and Eleanor, both young attorneys making their mark in West Virginia. Lorraine’s grandson, Tim, is also an attorney who married a well-respected female attorney in her own regard.
Though she was continuously perseverant in her quest to provide for her family and earn a reputation as an outstanding legal mind, Lorraine refused to compromise her manner for ambition. “There was never any yelling,” says Tom of his grandmother. “She was a hoot and certainly not shy, but she didn’t yell and fight.”
The first female attorney on the West Coast of the United States, Clara Shortridge Foltz was a champion of justice for all whose mark on the legal world includes an intangible ripple effect on women’s ability to practice law, as well as more notable moments, such as the county courthouse in Los Angeles bearing her name.
In 1878, after learning the California bar admitted only white males, Foltz pushed an amendment through the legislature that removed limitations on persons who could practice law. The amendment was not a singular effort; fellow female advocate Laura D. Gordon helped author and lobby for the amendment.
Her practice took her to numerous cities in California and a brief term in New York City, and in 1893, she presented the idea of a Public Defender’s Office at the World’s Fair in Chicago, IL. Foltz believed in fair and equal justice fervently, and lobbied for the creation of the office until, in 1914, Los Angeles County opened the first Public Defender’s Office in the United States. This occurred almost half a century before the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright reached the Supreme Court in 1962.
Notable Women in West Virginia Law
Agnes Westbrook Morrison – first female WVU College of Law graduate, 1895
Margaret Workman - first woman elected to WV State Supreme Court and the first woman elected to statewide office in West Virginia
Irene C. Berger – first African-American female federal judge in West Virginia’s history and first African American female appointed as a Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia
Stephanie Thacker - the first West Virginia woman to sit as a judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
Elizabeth Hallanan - First female judge in West Virginia
Virginia Mae Brown - First female to serve as the Assistant Attorney General in West Virginia
Barbara Baxter - First female to serve as the President of the West Virginia State Bar Association
For those interested in reading more about women’s achievements in West Virginia and beyond, the US District Court in Southern West Virginia put together some more achievements and profiles. You can read it here.