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“Gentlemen, I present to you our sister at the bar.”

Phoebe Couzins wrote for the Women's Suffrage publication The Revolution.
Phoebe Couzins wrote for the Women's Suffrage publication The Revolution.

Governor George Lemuel Woods made this announcement in Salt Lake City on September 1, 1872, the day Phoebe Couzins became the first woman admitted to the bar in Utah Territory:

“Toward the close of the regular business of the session, several ladies were introduced and invited to seats within the sacred circle where sat our legal fraternity…ready to hurl forth the ponderous thunderings of the law. The effect of this introduction of beauty and wit into the ranks of chivalry was electrical, and a subdued murmur of applause ran around the room.”

— Salt Lake Herald, September 22, 1872.

Phoebe Couzins was born in St. Louis in 1842 to civic-minded John and Adaline Couzins. As a young woman during the Civil War, she tended sick and wounded soldiers. The experience convinced her that if women possessed political power, they could prevent war. Couzins studied law at Washington University in St. Louis and in 1871, she became its first female graduate.

In 1869, when the Fifteenth Amendment to the constitution was proposed, it prohibited denying the vote to anyone based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The absence of gender from that statement caused a divide in the nascent women’s suffrage movement, with Couzins joining Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in opposing the amendment unless women were included. Phoebe Couzins was an early contributor to the women’s suffrage publication, “The Revolution.”

In addition to Utah, Couzins earned a license to practice law in the federal courts and was admitted to the bar in Missouri, Kansas, and the Dakota Territory. She quickly moved into a career in public speaking, however, and by 1876, was traveling widely, lecturing on woman’s rights. Phoebe spoke at the 1882 convention of the National Woman Suffrage Association in Washington, D.C. When her father, who was U.S. Marshal of the Eastern District of Missouri, died in 1887, she was appointed to take over—the first woman to serve in this role.

This and many other items are available at Utah Digital Newspapers, where more than 2 million Utah newspaper pages are text-searchable.

"The Revolution" nameplate
In 1995, Salt Lake City residents could hear Couzins speak on the topic, “Our Pilgrim Mothers and the Daughters of the Cavaliers.”
More information

“Phoebe Couzins (1842-1913),” by Kimberly Harper, last accessed on March 20, 2018 at

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