Secrets of Seneca County Historical Driving Tour | The Cronise Sisters

Secrets of Seneca County Historical Driving Tour | The Cronise Sisters

April 01, 2024

Embark on a captivating journey through the wondrous past of Seneca County, Ohio, with the Secrets of Seneca County Historical Driving Tour! The next stop on the journey is: The Cronise Sisters (Historical Marker, Previous Home, and Previous Business (Along South Washington St., Tiffin, OH 44883) Stop #5)

Sisters, Nettie and Florence Cronise, were raised in the home of their grandparents, Henry and Susanna Cronise, following the divorce of their parents in 1849. The home on South Washington Street was their childhood residence and would be Florence’s for the remainder of her life.

Nettie and Florence both attended  public schools and then Heidelberg University. Apparently due to an eye issue, Nettie only went to school there for a year, but Florence graduated at the top of her class in 1865. At that time, Heidelberg frowned on a woman speaking at the graduation ceremony, so she did not receive the honor of speaking as the valedictorian. However, Florence returned to Heidelberg and earned her MA in education in 1869. While Florence was receiving her education at Heidelberg, Nettie moved to Illinois to attend the State Normal School. This was a training school offering certification to high school graduates preparing to be elementary teachers.  Nettie would also learn how to understand and communicate with the deaf.

Both women taught school for a brief time but changed career paths. Nettie entered the  office of Warren P. Noble to study law and Florence studied at the firm of Tiffin attorney John McClauley. Although the reason for Nettie changing careers isn’t clear, Florence made it known that teacher salaries were too low.  She stated that she needed to earn a better living and felt being a lawyer would provide that.

On April 4, 1873, Nettie Cronise was admitted to the bar of Ohio by three judges of the Seneca County District Court after presenting herself and her qualifications. Bench & Bar states that Nettie Cronise became the first woman admitted to the Ohio Bar and reportedly the third in the United States. Further adding that George E. Seney, John McCauley, R. G. Pennington, W. H. Gibson, and Nelson L. Brewer recommended her application even before women were authorized by state law to practice in Ohio.

In September 1873, Florence became the second female attorney in Ohio.  Together they put out the sign “N & F Cronise, Attorneys at Law” and opened their office.  The office was located on the second floor of this building, across the street from their State Historic Marker. Several years later they were admitted to the Federal Courts in Toledo.  Bench & Bar (1897) states that the sisters were such effective litigators that every year they handled more than fifty state and federal cases on the court dockets for the Northern District of Ohio.

Nettie Cronise married Nelson B. Lutes on August 24, 1874, and six years later she joined her husband’s practice due to his deafness.  Because of her earlier education and work with deaf individuals, Nettie  was a great asset to the husband and considered it her duty to aid him in his work. She continued to practice law with her husband until his death in 1900, where upon she then entered the practice with her daughter Evelyn. Florence never married and continued her law practice into the mid-1920s, until her health demanded she retire.  In addition to success as a lawyer, she was also the first female notary in the state of Ohio.

 Nettie Cronise LutesFlorence Cronise

Additional information can be found on their State of Ohio Historic Marker.

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