Etta Haynie Maddox

First Woman Licensed to Practice Law in Maryland & Suffragist

Photo Credit: The Baltimore City Historical Society Inc. 

Profile Summary by Maria Salacuse

Etta Haynie Maddox was the first woman licensed to practice law in Maryland. Born in 1860 in Baltimore, Maryland, she attended Eastern Female High School and later studied voice at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. While traveling as a vocalist, she became involved in the suffrage movement. In 1900, the Baltimore Law School accepted her into its first class of students where she was the only female in the class. Although she graduated in 1901, she could not take the bar or practice law because the Act of 1898 limited the practice of law to men. See e.g. Section 3 of Chapter 139 of the Act ("All applications for admission to the bar shall be referred by the Court of Appeals to the State Board of Law Examiners, who shall examine the applicant, touching his qualifications for admission to the bar.")(empahsis added). Maddox petitioned the Court of Appeals to permit her to take the bar exam, but the Court denied her request, finding that that the right to practice law was not a natural inherent right. In re Etta H. Maddox, 50 A. 487 (Md. 1901). After Maddox lobbied the state legislature, State Senator Jacob M. Moses introduced Senate Bill No. 30 to amend law to admit women to the bar. On April 8, 1902, Governor John Walter Smith signed it into law.  

Maddox took and passed the bar examination with distinction in June 1902. On September 11, 1902, the Court of Appeals formally admitted her to the bar making her the first licensed woman lawyer in the State of Maryland. On March 4, 1911, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland admitted Maddox to practice before it.  In addition to practicing law, Maddox was actively involved in women’s suffrage, co-founding the Maryland Suffrage Association and writing the Maryland’s suffrage bill in 1910.  After the United States Constitution was amended to give women the right to vote, Maddox remained active in pressing for social changes including equal pay for equal work.  She died in Baltimore on February 19, 1933, and is buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore.

*** For additional information on Maddox, please see the Maryland State Archives' biography and related underlying historical sources, including interesting Baltimore Sun articles.  

Maria Salacuse is an Assistant General Counsel with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Any views presented in this profile are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer.