Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Belva Ann Lockwood  1830 ~ 1917

 


Belva Ann Lockwood

In the summer of 1884 Mrs. Belva Ann Lockwood was nominated for the presidency of the Equal Rights party in San Francisco, California, and this was the first step toward giving woman suffrage a similar recognition to that accorded the male vote. In 1888 she was renominated by the same party in Des Moines, Iowa, and on this occasion awakened the people of the United States as never before to the consideration of the right of suffrage for women. The notoriety given to her by these bold movements called forth much censure; nevertheless, in a history of what women have done for the United States, Mrs. Lockwood's life should figure prominently. She was born in Royalton, Niagara County, New York, on the 24th of October, 1830. Her parents' name was Bennett, and they were of the farming class in moderate circumstances, so their daughter was educated first in the district school, and later in the academy of her native town. At fourteen years of age she taught the district school in summer and attended school in winter, continuing that strenuous regime until she was eighteen, when she became the wife of a young fanner in the neighborhood, Uriah H. McNall. Her husband died in April, 1853, leaving one small daughter who, later in life, became Mrs. Lockwood's principal assistant in her law office. As Belva Ann McNall, a young widow, she entered Genesee College, in Lima, New York and was graduated therefrom with honor on the 27th of June, 1857. She was immediately elected preceptress of Lockport Union School, and here she ruled with efficiency and success for four years, leaving there to become proprietor of the McNall Seminary, in Oswego, New York. At the close of the Civil War Mrs. McNall came to Washington, and for several years had charge of Union League Hall, meanwhile taking up the study of law.

On the 11th of March, 1868; she became the wife of the Rev. Ezekiel Lockwood, a Baptist minister, who, during the war, was chaplain of the Second D. C. Regiment. Doctor Lockwood died in Washington, D. C. on the 23rd of April, 1877, and three years later we find Mrs. Lockwood taking her second degree of A.M., in Syracuse, New York.

In May, 1873, she had graduated from the National University Law School, of Washington, D. C, and after a spirited controversy about the admission of women to the bar she was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, the highest court in the district. She at once entered into the active practice of her profession, and accomplished over twenty years of successful work. For about thirteen years of that time Mrs. Lockwood was in court every court day, and engaged in pleading cases in person before the court.

In 1875 she applied for admission to the Court of Claims, and was refused, on the ground, first, that she was a woman and, second, that she was a married woman. The contest was a bitter one, sharp, short and decisive. But, undiscouraged, Mrs. Lockwood had her application for admission to the bar of the United States Supreme Court renewed. That motion was also refused, on the ground that there was no English precedent for the admission of women to the bar. Again, nothing daunted, she drafted a bill admitting women to the bar of the United States Supreme Court, secured its introduction into body houses of Congress, and after three years of effort, aroused influence and public sentiment enough to secure its passage in June, 1879, and two months later, on the motion of the Honorable A. G. Riddle, Mrs. Lockwood was admitted to the bar of that august tribunal, the first woman upon whom the honor was conferred. After the passage of the act Mrs. Lockwood was notified that she could then be admitted to the Court of Claims. This honor she accepted, and had for many years before that court a very active practice. There is now no Federal Court in the United States before which she may not plead.

In later years, however, she has confined her energies more especially to claims against the government. She has even made an argument for the passage of a bill before the committees of the Senate and the House of Congress, and in 1870 she secured a bill giving to the women employees of the Government, of whom there are many thousands, equal pay for equal work with men. At another time she secured the passage of a bill appropriating $50,000 for the payment of bounties of soldiers and mariners, heretofore a neglected class. During Garfield's administration, in 1881, Mrs. Lockwood made application for appointment as minister to Brazil, but these negotiations were terminated by the unfortunate death of the President.

Mrs. Lockwood is interested, not only in equal rights for men and women, but in temperance and labor reforms, the control of railroads and telegraphs by the Government, and in the settlement of all difficulties, national and international, by arbitration instead of war. In the summer of 1889, in company with the Rev. Amando Deyo, Mrs. Lockwood represented the Universal Peace Union at the Paris Exposition, and was there delegated to the International Congress of Peace in that city, which opened its sessions in the Salle of the Trocadéro, under the patronage of the French government She made nearly all the opening speeches, and later presented a paper in the French language on international arbitration, which was well received. In the summer of 1890 she again represented the Universal Peace Union in the International Congress in London, and here she presented a paper on "Disarmament." Before returning to the United States Mrs. Lockwood took a course of university extension lectures in the University of Oxford. She was elected for the third time to represent the Universal Peace Union, of which she was then corresponding secretary, in the International Congress of Peace, held in November, 1891, in Rome. Her subject in that gathering was ''The Establishment of an International Bureau of Peace."

Mrs. Lockwood now lives in retirement in Washington, D. C, but her appearance upon a woman suffrage platform is always greeted with applause. Mrs. Lockwood has always been a student, and one of the most valuable acts of her career was when she became prime mover in the university extension course in this country.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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