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  • InsideTrack
  • July 21, 2021

    First Woman Lawyer: Janesville Walking Tour Follows Lavinia Goodell's Path in 1800s

    Thanks to a team of Wisconsin lawyers, you can now take a walking tour in Janesville that follows in the footsteps of Lavinia Goodell, Wisconsin's first woman lawyer.

    July 21, 2021 – It is walking in the footsteps of history.

    Thanks to a team that includes two Wisconsin lawyers, there are two new self-guided walking tours that allow you to view the sites, the life, and career of Wisconsin’s first woman lawyer.

    Lavinia Goodell (1839-1880) fought a tough but successful battle to become the state’s first female lawyer. She was admitted in 1874 to practice law in Rock County Circuit Court, and, in 1879, was the first female lawyer admitted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

    She had earlier been denied admission because of her gender. Goodell was instrumental in getting the Wisconsin governor to sign a law allowing women to be attorneys in 1877.

    In 2019, Goodell was recognized as a State Bar of Wisconsin Legal Innovator.

    You can read more about Goodell by Wisconsin lawyers Colleen Ball and Nancy Kopp, who have conducted extensive research into Goodell’s life. They are telling Goodell’s story through blog posts at the website, “Lavinia Goodell: The Private Life and Public Trials of Wisconsin’s First Woman Lawyer.”

    “She was a whirling dervish,” Kopp says of Goodell’s life. “She packed so much into the short life she lived. She was very smart. She was a great writer. She was witty. She could have a sharp tongue. She didn’t suffer fools gladly. She didn’t shy away from speaking truth to power.”

    Lavinia Goodell walking tour 

    Two New Walking Tours

    The tours explore important locations in Goodell’s life. The first tour involves “Lavinia’s daily stomping grounds,” and the second stops at the courthouse, the jail, the newspaper office, and the opera house.

    While many of the buildings from her day no longer exist, the tour’s guide includes vintage photos of the locations where available.

    “We hope that people visiting southern Wisconsin take the time to look up these sites and see life as Lavinia lived it in the 1870s,” said the tour’s authors.

    Read more about the tours in the blog on WisLawNOW, and view and download the walking tour’s free PDF.

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    Colleen Ball and Nancy Kopp hold a photo of Lavinia Goodell (circa 1870). To preserve Goodell’s legacy, they’re telling her story through blog posts at the website, “Lavinia Goodell: The Private Life and Public Trials of Wisconsin’s First Woman Lawyer,”


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