First Woman Admitted to the Maryland State Bar Association
Photo Credit: BALT. SUN., April 9, 1998
It was not until 1946 that Maryland admitted women into its state bar association, making Maryland the last state to admit women to a state bar association. Prior to that time, women lawyers formed their own groups such as the Women’s Lawyers Association (the precursor to the Women’s Bar Association). Rose Zetzer was undaunted by the exclusion, applying for membership to the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA) twenty consecutive times until she was finally admitted in 1946.
Born in 1904 in Baltimore City to Russian immigrants, Zetzer attended city schools and according to a 1970 interview in the Evening Sun, decided to become a lawyer when she was in the eighth grade during a discussion about whether women should have the right to vote. Zetzer graduated from Eastern High School, attended the Johns Hopkins and then received her law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1925. Zetzer’s efforts to apply to a law firm were unsuccessful, largely because the law firms preferred to hire her as a stenographer. She instead opened her own law practice in Baltimore City and in 1940 formed Maryland’s first all women law firm: Zetzer, Carton, Friedler & Parke. She and other women also formed the Women’s Bar Association in 1927. From 1926 to 1946, Zetzer applied for membership to the MSBA, submitting a check for membership. But each year, the MSBA returned her check. When the MSBA finally granted Zetzer admission, Maryland was the last state to admit women to a state bar association. (It would be another 10 years until women were granted membership into the Bar Association for Baltimore City.).
In addition to pushing for women to be admitted to the MSBA, she also lobbied for women to be jury members. The Maryland General Assembly passed a partial (exempting 12 counties) women’s jury service bill in 1947.
Metzer died on April 5, 1998, at the age of ninety-four.
*** For more information on Metzer, see Deborah Sweet Eyler, The Early Female Jewish Members of the Maryland Bar: 1920–1929, 74 Md. L. Rev. 545 (2015); Lynne A. Battaglia & Evelyn Lombardo Cusson, "From Exclusion to Acceptance: Women Lawyers in Maryland," Maryland State Bar Association, available at www.msba.org; and Fred Rasmussen, “Rose Zetzer, 94, Founded 1st All-Female Law Firm in Md.”, BALT. SUN., April 9, 1998. For information on women on Maryland juries, see Dennis M. Sweeney, "June 1 Marks Anniversary of Having Women on Maryland Juries," Maryland Daily Record, May 31, 2010
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.