First Female Lawyers in Utah
The Utah Bar admitted Phoebe Couzins and Georgia Snow on the same day in 1872.
Couzins studied law at Washington University Law School in Missouri, and had been admitted to the bar in Missouri and in Arkansas. The Utah bar accepted her automatically, as she had credentials and experience practicing in other states. Judge McKean, a member Utah Supreme Court at the time of Couzin’s admittance said:
“May we not hope that the honorable profession of the law may be made even more honorable by the admission of women to the bar. It strikes us as a novelty, gentlemen, but everything in the line of progress is, at some time or other, a novelty. I very cheerfully admit Miss Couzins to this bar and, gentlemen, I present to you our sister at the bar.”
Georgia Snow was born in Iowa and traveled with her parents at the age of eight with the first wave of settlers to Utah. Her father worked as a lawyer and she studied and worked as his law clerk for several years. At the age of thirty she was also admitted to the bar. Judge McKean offered commentary on her admittance as well:
“The fact that she has long resided here, and that she is the daughter of a lawyer, will be of great service to her, giving her much advantage over strangers who come here, and especially in listening to the complaints of her own sex.”
Georgia served as the territorial librarian until she married at the age of 44. She and her husband, George Carleton, moved to Wyoming, where Georgia served as an alternate delegate for the Republican Convention. They retired in San Diego where Georgia ran for and won a seat on the Board of Education. She passed away in 1915.
First Female Judge in Utah
Reva Beck Bosone was born in 1895 in American Fork, Utah. She attended Westminster Junior College in 1917 and then University of California at Berkeley and completed a B. A. two years later. While at Berkeley, she met and married a son of a Utah politician, but the marriage didn’t last.
For the next seven years Reva taught high school English, speech and drama in Utah. She then went back to school and earned her Law Degree at the University of Utah. While there she met Joseph P. Bosone and they married. She and her husband opened a law firm in Carbon County and then moved to Salt Lake City. Reva ran and won a seat in the State House of Representatives when they lived in Carbon County, and ran and won again once they had moved to Salt Lake City. She established minimum wage laws for women and children and an unemployment insurance law. She was named the Democratic Floor Leader in 1935.
After her service in the house, she was elected as a municipal judge in 1936, the first woman to be elected to that position. She took charge of traffic court, and violations soon dropped as she sent repeat offenders to jail. After one year she took over Salt Lake City’s Police Court. While serving as a judge she hosted a popular radio show called “Her Honor— the Judge.” She served in that position for a few years before she ran for Congress. Reva Bosone was the first woman to be elected to Congress from Utah. While she served as a Representative for the Salt Lake City area, she served on the Public Lands Committee.
Her career in Congress became jeopardized as she started to run for a third term. She was accused of illegally accepting $630 in donations. Reva argued she was unaware of the law she had broken, and the money was unspent. A trial declared her innocent, but the bad publicity was enough to put an end to her political career.
She continued practicing law, and also hosted a four-day-a-week television show called “It’s a Woman’s World,” where she discussed topics that were important to women. President Kennedy appointed her as the U. S. Post Office Department’s judicial officer and chair of its contract board of appeals. She retired in 1968 and lived with her daughter in Vienna, Virginia until her death in 1983.
First Woman on the Utah Supreme Court
Christine Durham was born in 1945. She grew up in California, spending some of her childhood in France due to her father being the Department of Treasury’s attaché at the Paris Embassy. Christine attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts for her undergraduate degree, where she met her husband George Durham. She started law school in Boston, but transferred to Duke University when her husband attended Duke’s medical program. While completing her law degree, she gave birth to the first two of her four children.
She taught at Duke immediately after graduating. She and her husband moved to Salt Lake City in 1973, where she taught at Brigham Young University as well as the University of Utah. Christine formed a law firm in Utah and later became a Judge in 1978. She served for four years as a district judge in the 3rd Judicial District Court, which encompasses Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit Counties.
Governor Scott M. Matheson appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1982. She was the first woman to be on the Utah Supreme Court. The other justices elected her as the Chief Justice in 2002. She served as the Chief Justice for ten years and then stepped down from the position, but stayed in the court. Christine retired from the Supreme Court completely in 2017. She had the honor of swearing in Olene Walker, the only female governor of Utah. She also helped establish the National Association of Women Judges and served as its president from 1986-1987.
First Female Attorney General
Jan Graham grew up in Sugarhouse, a neighborhood of Salt Lake City. She went through several universities to get her bachelor degree before getting a master’s in Psychology at University of Utah. Jan attended the same school to get her law degree and graduated in 1980. She worked at a law firm for several years and became a partner. In 1989 she married her high school sweetheart, Buzz Hunt.
Jan ran and won the office of Attorney General in 1993 and served for eight years until 2001. She focused on domestic violence and introduced legislation to make traumatizing a child by abusing a spouse a separate crime from spousal abuse. Jan created Children Justice Centers, a place where children could feel comfortable talking to the police if there were problems with their home life. She also led the fight in suing tobacco companies for funds the state lost to treating Medicaid members for lung cancer. Graham was uniquely a Democrat elected in a predominantly Republican state, and she was the first and so far only woman to serve as Utah’s Attorney General.
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Edwards, Brooke. “Voices From the Past: Georgia Snow- 1st Utah Female Lawyer.” Aspiring Mormon Women, July 6, 2015. http://aspiringmormonwomen.org/2015/07/06/voices-from-the-past-georgia-snow-1st-lds-female-lawyer/
Madsen, Carol Cornwall. “Sisters at the bar- Utah women in law.” Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol LXI No 3 (1993): 208-232. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/details?id=422478&q=Phoebe+Couzins&facet_setname_s=dha_%2A
“On the Record: Utah Attorney General Jan Graham.” Stateline, March 30, 2000. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2000/03/30/on-the-record-utah-attorney-general-jan-graham
“Oppressed Women of Utah.” Deseret News, October 30, 1972. Utah Digital Newspapers. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6pp0158/2616967
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Weaver, Sarah Jane. “Presitigious honor.” Church News, December 20, 2007. https://www.thechurchnews.com/archives/2007-12-22/prestigious-honor-78470
Whitney, Susan. “Jan Graham: A private person in a public life.” Deseret News, June 5 1997. https://www.deseret.com/1997/6/5/19316011/jan-graham-a-private-person-in-a-public-life